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January 6, 2011

Regulatory changes must for optimising NA performance

Top Story

January 6, 2011

Islamabad
Critical regulatory and administrative changes are essential to optimise the performance of the National Assembly through greater investments in broader areas including record-keeping, public access to assembly records, legislative tracking, monitoring progress against executive assurances and orientation of members in Rules of Business.
The report compiled by Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) about performance of the second year of the 13th National Assembly acknowledged the consistency in the conduct of sessions throughout its second year, but the consistency was not matched by the actual sitting time, which was too short for the House to dispose of the agenda and address issues that the members had put up for discussions.
Fafen Parliament Monitor covered the performance of the Lower House of the Parliament between March 15, 2009 and April 2, 2010. The report has employed direct observation for the performance assessment using a five-pronged criterion — transparency, participation, responsiveness, output and order and institutionalisation.
While the report established that the National Assembly has been prompt in taking up issues of public importance, conclusiveness of assembly proceedings appeared to be lacking. Equally noticeable has been executive inactions to follow up on many of its assurances to the assembly. Consequently, more than half items on the Orders of the Day could not be taken up.
The report stated that the National Assembly held 79 sittings grouped in 12 sessions during the reporting period, remaining almost 243 hours in session — an average of 3 hours and 4 minutes per sitting. Each sitting started late by an average of 48 minutes while the proceedings remained suspended for almost 28 hours due to breaks.
Such delays and breaks further decreased the opportunity to take up the agenda. The quorum remained visibly lacking during a majority of the sittings, though, quite surprisingly, the lack of quorum was

pointed out only thrice during the entire year, indicating at some kind of tacit understanding between the treasury and the opposition on the issue.
The House passed 33 of a total of 129 bills that appeared on the Orders of The Day, implying 25% achievement rate in this major form of parliamentary output. Twenty-eight Government bills and five Private Members’ Bills were passed during the year.
It said the Lower House of the parliament passed some important laws pertaining to public interest such as Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Bill 2009, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 and Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2009. Besides legislation, the National Assembly expressed its opinion on various issues through passing 16 out of total 64 Resolutions during the year.
As many as 3,732 questions were put forward during Question Hour during the year — 1,325 starred and 2,407 unstarred. About 52% of the questions were put forward by women members, who represent only 22% of the total number of MNAs. More than 85% of the questions were put forward by the PML-N and the PPPP members, who make up for 64% of the assembly’s strength. Ministry of Water and Power received the highest number of questions.
The report further stated that lack of adequate space in the regulatory framework to raise constituency-related issues compelled members to use Points of Order to highlight the local issues in the assembly. As many as 198 members raised 1,124 Points of Order during the second parliamentary year, 129 of which were responded to by Minister of Chairs.
Lower House witnessed a total of 32 instances of protests, boycotts and walkouts by the members during the year. Most of the protests, boycotts and walkouts were staged by the members over breach of their personal privileges or after a verbal clash with the members of other political parties.

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