Tuesday September 26, 2023

Legislative activity

By Editorial Board
September 20, 2022

It is disappointing to note that an assessment of provincial assemblies in Pakistan shows a decrease in the working hours of all the four assemblies in the fourth parliamentary year of this tenure. The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development (Pildat) has released its comparative assessment of performance of provincial assemblies during the recently concluded parliamentary year. A slightly better performer is the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that passed the most laws and met for most working hours in the year. The KP Assembly also had the highest number of sittings adjourned due to quorum compared to other provincial assemblies during the parliamentary year. The largest provincial assembly in Pakistan located in Lahore met for the lowest number of working hours and sittings whereas the smallest provincial assembly in Quetta ranked last in legislative activity, though its chief minister was in attendance more than other chief ministers. The report’s assessment shows that each assembly had its own peculiar style of working with its own distinguishing features. They outranked each other in different areas but matched in recording a decline in working hours and days consumed in budget sessions. The attendance of leaders of the opposition also showed a declining trend compared with the third parliamentary year.

Even with the highest number of working hours, the KP Assembly convened for 60 days only in the entire year. That shows an even more dismal performance by other assemblies that did not even convene for this many days. Punjab is the largest province of Pakistan with nearly half of the country’s population; its provincial assembly held only 42 sittinga. Interestingly, both the Balochistan and KP assemblies marked some improvement in working days by showing eight and nine per cent increase respectively over the third parliamentary year. But the Punjab Assembly displayed disregard for its duty by marking a 31 per cent decline, reducing its number of sittings from 61 in the third parliamentary year to just 42 in the fourth. Sindh was not far behind in its lacklustre performance by showing a 28 per cent decrease in sittings during the same period. Overall, the provincial assemblies met for much lower working hours then one would expect, keeping in view the maintenance cost of these assemblies and their members. Even the KP assembly that showed a relatively better performance met for just 126 hours in the fourth parliamentary year. That is less than the working hours a full-time employee is supposed to work in a month. There are similar details too about all the assemblies but here the point is to ask our public representatives about the responsibility – or lack thereof – that they display at public expense. Pakistan is not a rich country and its citizens pay exorbitant taxes. Don’t they then have a right to question the performance of the legislatures that are run via the public exchequer?