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May 27, 2020

Ministry seeks implementation of Covid-19 SOPs during lengthy session

National

May 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs will write a letter to the National Assembly Secretariat on Wednesday seeking strict enforcement of recommendations of the COVID-19 panel to avert the spread of coronavirus.

The National Assembly session starting in June will continue till August to meet the constitutionally-mandatory sittings of 130 days in the parliamentary year. The federal budget session will start on June 5.

The Parliament’s coronavirus committee had made a number of recommendations to be observed during the sessions, but these were not followed, the parliamentary affairs ministry observed, according to a highly-placed source, who divulged this to The News on condition of anonymity.

For example, the bipartisan panel decided that nobody except the MPs will enter Parliament building during the National Assembly and Senate sessions, but it was noticed that a large number of people got into the precincts raising the alarm bells about the spread of the pandemic.

The source said that at least four members of the lower staff of the National Assembly Secretariat have been found COVID-19 positive. Besides, three MPs have also contracted virus, who have quarantined themselves in the parliamentary lodges where other members will also stay during the forthcoming session.

According to the source, the COVID-19 committee had also decided that nobody without a negative coronavirus test would come in Parliament premises. He said that it was known that a wheel-chaired member (Munir Orakzai) had collapsed during the session.

“We may be confronted with a disaster if we do not stringently stick to the general SOPs devised by the government as well as the coronavirus committee of Parliament,” the source feared.

He pointed out that the previous National Assembly session was convened on the insistence of some parliamentary parties but their top leaders did not turn up for their own reasons.

Meanwhile, former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq told The News that the general debate on the federal budget was likely to be reduced to forty hours.

“The main opposition leaders will take part in the discussion and expose the government policies.”

He said the opposition parties will move cut motions and speak on them. However, he said, they will be conscious of the fact that the duration of the daily session would be less compared to the normal days.

Earlier, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan has said the working days of Parliament are symbolic in the Constitution.

In one week, Parliament holds its sitting for five and a half days but the members get salaries, allowances and other perks and privileges for the whole week.

He sent a letter to all the ministries seeking details of the pending legislations and the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament will be summoned in which the legislation of the Interior Ministry on Mutual Legal Assistance will be approved.

Babar Awan said currently 78 parliamentary committees of both the Houses of Parliament are functioning on which millions of rupees were spent monthly and their performance was that dozens of bills have been pending there for the last many years.

He said there was no single legislation that was cleared by the committees within 30 days and now letters have been written to all the committees to clear the pending legislations.