ISLAMABAD: The 119th Senate session, which was cut short because of Hajj, was marked by low attendance, with no sitting boasting more than 25% lawmakers.
When the opposition had requisitioned the session, they had demanded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attend it; but his absence from all the five sittings seemed to encourage the federal ministers to skip the meetings as well, that too without intimation.
The lawmakers’ absence led Chairman Raza Rabbani to issue a fourth and final warning to the ministers. “I shall bar the entry of ministers in the house if a minister who’s supposed to be in the house with regard to business of the house is found absent.”
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who was missing in the previous session last month, was absent in the 119th session as well, causing postponement of a debate on the National Finance Commission because his presence was mandatory.
According to a report of the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), each sitting lasted an average three hours and 24 minutes, with 19 (18%) lawmakers present at the start and 26 (25%) at the adjournment of the session.
A senator had pointed out quorum on one occasion, and the house had to be adjourned for want of the required number of senators.
On September 17 the Senate secretary had made an announcement in the house regarding the initiative of public petitions.
The upper house of parliament has received 877 public petitions, of which four were discussed in the house; some 398 were sent to the relevant standing committees, and reports on 66 have been submitted; the number of pending petitions stands at 322.
Several members introduced their bills, including the Pakistan Environmental Protection (Amendment) Bill, the Working Women (Protection of Rights) Bill and the Fair Representation of Women Bill.
The Senate also passed a motion recommending conversion of the entire house into a committee for considering legislative, administrative and other measures required for ensuring constitutional rights to the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The house had earlier converted itself into a committee of the whole on a motion asking for measures to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to the people.
Members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) actively participated in debates and highlighted issues. Perhaps in the backdrop of the ongoing action against corruption in Sindh and arrest of some key PPP leaders, the party submitted an adjournment motion (for exclusive discussion over an issue) that might provide them the opportunity to censure the government. PPP senators requested a discussion on LNG and the Nandipur power plant.
PTI Senator Azam Swati opted against presenting for voting his resolution for evolving an effective mechanism to check and verify the veracity of the statements of assets and liabilities submitted to the election commission by the parliamentarians, even though it was on the order.
Moments before the resolution was to be taken up for discussion, Swati left the house over reasons known only to him, leaving the chairman with no other option but to drop it.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2015.
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