National Assembly completes five years
ISLAMABAD: Completing its five-year term, the 13th National Assembly achieved a legislative agenda which altered the country’s governance structure by ensuring provincial autonomy and restoring the 1973 constitution, and promoted women’s empowerment, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report on the five-year performance of the Lower House of parliament.
The House elected a woman speaker for the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history and the president addressed the joint sessions of parliament for five consecutive years. Following the established parliamentary tradition, the leader of the opposition was elected as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. In 50 regular sessions, the National Assembly held 521 sittings – 100 in the first, 107 in the second, 108 in the second, 106 in the fourth and 100 in the fifth parliamentary year. The National Assembly witnessed a historic change in the rules of procedure to allow standing committees to scrutinise ministerial budgetary proposals before they were made part of the federal budget. A new leader of the House was elected in the fifth parliamentary year after the Supreme Court disqualified the prime minister in the contempt of court case. Similarly, in the fifth parliamentary year 11 MNAs resigned for holding dual nationalities. Nine members of the Lower Douse died during the five years, including minister for minorities affairs Shahbaz Bhatti who was assassinated in Islamabad.
Legislation: In the five parliamentary years, the National Assembly passed 134 bills – 116 by the government and 18 of the private members. Of them, 81 became acts of parliament. The 12th National Assembly had passed 51 bills during its five-year term. Though the National Assembly passed only five bills in the first parliamentary year, the legislation picked up pace in the second, third, fourth and fifth parliamentary years, with the Lower House passing 32, 31, 29, and 37 bills, respectively. Out of total passed government bills, 56 sought amendments in the existing laws and the rest were new bills.
These included the 18th and 20th constitutional amendment bills, which helped restore the 1973 constitution, ensured provincial autonomy and gave Pakistan a consensus mechanism for civilian transfer of power democratically, besides the formation of the full five-member Election Commission of Pakistan. However, the four bills to tackle terrorism were passed only in the fifth parliamentary year and that too in the last three sessions. Similarly, the National Assembly failed to enact a new law on accountability despite the government introducing the National Accountability Act in October 2012. The 13th National Assembly stands out for pro-women legislation, passing treasury and private members’ bills against domestic violence, harassment at workplace and public places, anti-women practices, and elevating the status of the commission on women. Unlike the past assemblies, the Lower House witnessed the healthy trend of passing the private members’ bills. Overall 189 private members bills were introduced in the Lower House, with 135 seeking amendments in the existing laws. Of them 18 bills were passed. The PPPP lawmakers introduced the most bills, 62 or 33 percent of those of private members, followed by 53 each by PML-N and PML legislators.
Budget: The debate on budget lasted for 82 sittings during the five parliamentary years – 19 in the first, 14 in the second, 22 in the third, 17 in the fourth and 10 sittings in the fifth parliamentary year. On average the budget debate lasted 16 sittings in each parliamentary year.
Resolutions: Out of the total 243 resolutions moved in the Lower House in the five years, 85 were adopted. Six resolutions on women rights and five each on minorities’ rights and blasphemy were adopted. Similarly, on a host of issues such as Balochistan, increase in prices of petroleum products, child rights, killing of polio workers and journalists, democracy, attack on Malala Yousafzai, terrorism, human rights, situation in Swat, NATO attack on Salala checkpost, target killings, missing persons, killing of Osama bin Laden, creation of new provinces, employment, and obscenity on cable TV, the Lower House adopted resolutions.