ISLAMABAD: The Upper House of Parliament will take up an amendment to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate to insert “prime minister’s zero-hour” to ensure his presence in the House.
The Senate has not received the premier since June last year – when he took over.
After the pleas of the legislators were not responded to, and protests against the prime minister’s absence did not bear any fruit, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s Tahir Hussain Mashhadi came up with a novel idea of introducing an amendment to the rules of the House, which earlier didn’t have any such thing to make the premier bound to attend Senate proceedings.
All the opposition parties, which outnumbered the treasury overwhelmingly in the Senate, had made pleas and lodged protests against the continuous absence of the prime minister from the House.
“What I have proposed is practiced in various established parliamentary democracies in the world, especially in the United Kingdom,” Mashhadi told Daily Times referring to “prime minister’s zero-hour”.
For the ministers, he pointed out that such rules were already in place, but the prime minister had not been included. “After his prolonged absence, I felt the need to propose this amendment to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, so that we may see him in the House,” he added.
The proposed amendment suggests that the prime minister shall, whenever possible, personally respond to points raised by members, whenever he is present in the House.
However, he shall attend Prime Minister’s Zero Hour at least once a week when the Senate is in session.
In the existing rules, the last half an hour of the sitting is utilised as “zero hour” to take up the matters of urgent public importance, in which any member may raise a matter after giving a notice, in writing, to the secretary, an hour before the commencement of the sitting to be taken up in the zero-hour requiring the minister of relevant department to respond to it.
Mashhadi said the 18th constitutional amendment gave huge importance to the Senate, where all the federating units were equally represented, and made the prime minister and his cabinet answerable to it along with the National Assembly on an equal footing.
“It is not against anyone. It is simply to strengthen the dignity of the Senate which is the Upper House of Parliament,” Mashhadi responded, when asked whether the prime minister had been targeted through this amendment.
In a house of 104 members, the opposition – Pakistan People’s Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid – have around 70 members against the 34 supporting the government which, however, received another dent in the recent days when the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl parted ways with the ruling PML-N.
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