ISLAMABAD, November 10, 2017: The Senate passed six legislative bills and adopted 16 resolutions during the 269th session that continued between October 23, 2017 and November 10, 2017.
The session comprising 15 sittings was the longest session of the ongoing (15th) parliamentary year of the Senate. With an average of 12% Senators present at the start and 13% at the end, each sitting lasted for average three hours and 40 minutes. A maximum of 65 (63%) members, on an average, attended the session along with the presence of two minority Senators.
On average, each sitting started two minutes behind the scheduled time and lasted three hours and 40 minutes. The Chairman attended all sittings and presided over 81% of the proceedings. The Deputy Chairman attended five sittings and chaired eight percent of the proceedings. The members of the Panel of Presiding Officers also presided over five percent of the session while the remaining 6% of the session was consumed in breaks.
The Leader of the House was present in 13 sittings and attended 43% of the proceedings, while the Leader of the Opposition attended 10 sittings for 20% of the proceedings. The Prime Minister attended one sitting.
The parliamentary leaders of PkMAP, MQM were observed present in all sittings. The PML-F leader attended 14 sittings and was followed by leaders of PTI & PML-N (12 each), JUI-F (11), BNP-M (10), PPPP, ANP, PML (9 each), BNP-A (8) and JI (5).
The House passed the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Islamabad Capital Territory Shops, Business and Industrial Establishments (Security) (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2017. These bills were moved by lawmakers belonging to PTI, PPPP and JI. The House also approved two government bills namely the Marine Insurance Bill, 2017 and the Public Interest Disclosures Bill, 2017.
The House referred 11 bills – three government and eight private members’ – to the relevant standing committees. The government bills referred to the committees included the Apprenticeship Bill, 2017; the Pakistan Tobacco Board (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and the Auditor-General’s (Functions, Powers and Terms and Conditions of Service) (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The private members’ bills referred to the committees included the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2017] (Insertion of new section 48A and amendment of section 241); the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the National Commission on the Status of Women (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Federal Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Amendment of Article 153); the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and the Prevention and Management of Conflict of Interest Bill, 2017.
As many as 11 bills were withdrawn by the concerned lawmakers. A PTI lawmaker withdrew the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Insertion of sections 320A and 337JJ); the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Amendment of sections 273, 274, 275); the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Amendment of section 2); the Defamation (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the National Health Care Bill, 2017; the Medical and Dental Council (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Islamabad Consumers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Amendment of sections 46 and 57) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Amendment of sections 154 and 156 and insertion of new section 154A). A PML-N lawmaker withdrew his bill the Islamabad Capital Territory Senior Citizens Welfare Bill, 2017.
A private member’s bill – the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2017 – was dropped due to absence of the concerned lawmaker. The Chair informed the House that the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Amendment of Article 228), the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017, the Islamabad Restriction on Employment of Children Bill, 2017, the Prevention of Witchcraft Bill, 2017 and the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 had been received back from the Standing Committees and were awaiting notices under Rule 100 for their consideration in the House.
The Chairman deferred the Islamabad Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Amendment in section 364A); the Islamabad Restriction on Employment of Children Bill, 2016; the Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2016 and the Trafficking in Persons Bill, 2016 for their consideration in the Committee of the Whole after an amendment in the Standing Orders of the House.
The House adopted 16 resolutions sponsored by PTI, PPPP, MQM, PkMAP, PML-N and BNP-M lawmakers. These resolutions recommended the government to ensure autonomy of the Election Commission of Pakistan in financial matters, construct a motorway to connect Karachi with other parts of the country, improve the performance of the Pakistan Cotton Standard Institute Karachi, ban the import of luxury items including exotic fruit, establish separate counters for women in NADRA offices in District Mansehra, install biometric attendance system in all the Federal Government hospitals, take immediate steps for the revival of sick or closed sustainable textile units, introduce three slabs for tariff of natural gas for domestic consumers in Balochistan, provide state of the art medical equipment in hospitals of Islamabad, mark zebra crossings on all roads in Islamabad, legislate for controlling spurious and sub-standard drugs, impose ban on converting agricultural land and hills in Islamabad into residential and commercial land, launch a separate channel of PTV for children to foster their interest in education and pay rental ceiling to the government employees along with their salaries. The House adopted two resolution expressing condolence over sad demise of prominent Sindhi writer and intellectual Ibrahim Joyo and condemning Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir.
Moreover, the House dropped seven resolutions included in the agenda due to absence of the concerned lawmakers while two resolutions were deferred on request of the relevant lawmakers.
The lawmakers raised 13 Calling Attention Notices (CANs) highlighting the issues related to appointment on the vacant post of the Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology, lack of government hospitals in Islamabad, absence of mechanism to monitor air pollution, non-construction of Burma Pull in Islamabad, three missing women and children belonging to District Awaran, purchase of sub-standard machinery by Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation, re-negotiating the contract price of LNG set between Pakistan and Qatar, increase in epidemic disease of HIV / AIDS, increase in power tariff , status of long standing under construction Chashma-Zhob power transmission line, activities of land mafia in and policy for admission into private medical colleges for 2017-18 and migration of about 70,000 people of Hazara Community of Balochistan to foreign countries. As many as three CANs were left unaddressed during the session while one was deferred.
The Senate held discussion on 14 out of 24 Motions under Rule 218 while seven motions were dropped due to absence of movers, two were deferred and one was not addressed. The discussions related to the issues of revitalizing the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, imposition of various taxes through electricity bills, announcement of NFC Award, cartelization in the industrial sector, provision of extremist material to students, ceasefire violation by India at Line of Control (LOC), increase in the amount of house building advance to the Government employees, implementation of land reforms, effective management of borders with Iran and Afghanistan, security measures to combat emergency situation in commercial buildings in Islamabad, inhuman conditions of brick kilns labourers in Islamabad, poor management of PIA, performance of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and need to establish independent National Tax Courts in the country.
The standing committees of the House presented 19 reports on various issues referred to the committees by the House. The government also presented two statutory reports in the Senate. The House granted extensions to seven committees for presentation of their reports.
The lawmakers spoke on Points of Public Importance at 63 instances during the proceedings consuming two hours and 18 minutes of the session. The ministers made statements on 17 Matters of Public Importance. The House held a discussion on a Matter of Public Importance raised under Rule 60 of the Senate Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business regarding violation of the Abbottabad University of Science and Technology Act as well as statutes made thereunder in order to secure No Objection Certificate from HEC to operationalize the university. A PPPP lawmaker spoke on it for five minutes while the Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training responded to it.
The lawmakers moved three Questions of Privilege during the session. One of these Questions of Privilege accused a an official of Public Works Department of breaching a PTI lawmaker’s privilege while the remaining two Questions, moved by a PMLF lawmaker, complained against the management of the Pakistan International Airlines. The Chair referred these questions to the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges for further action.
Moved by the Leader of the House, the lawmakers adopted two motions under Rule 204 authorizing the Chairman Senate to appoint the members of the Special Committees set up to examine the working of Sports Federations in the country and the Annual report of FPSC for the year 2015.
The Chair directed the Minister for Law and Justice to present a report within 30 days on the status of implementation on the Resolution No. 305 that recommended the government to enhance the role and powers of the Senate of Pakistan was deferred.
The House approved an amendment to the Rule 100of the Senate Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012. The amendment provided for referral of a bill rejected by a Standing Committee of the House to a Select Committee. Moreover, the House also made three amendments to the Standing Orders. The amendments were moved by the Leader of the House and the Parliamentary Leader of PPPP.
The House took up a total of 110 out of 306 (36%) Starred Questions for answers during the proceedings. The Senators raised 286 supplementary questions as well. Out of 306 Starred Questions, 67 were addressed to the Ministry of Interior, 32 to the Ministry of Finance, 22 to the Minister of Energy (22), and 16 each to the ministries of Capital Administration and Development Division, and National Health Services and Regulation.
The House held a discussion on the Annual Report of the Central Board of Directors of the State Bank of Pakistan on the state of the Economy for the year 2016-2017. As many as eight lawmakers participated in the discussion consuming an hour and 63 minutes. The lawmakers also debated the division of powers among State institutions consuming four hours and 51 minutes. As many as26 lawmakers participated in the debate.
The lawmakers submitted 30 Adjournment Motions during the session. The Chair admitted seven of these AMs for discussions. The House debated six of the admitted AMs which highlighted the issues related to lack of medical facilities in hospitals of Islamabad, availability of extremist ideology and literature to the students, significance of the BRICS declaration with particular reference to China’s view point about Pakistan, water scarcity, reservations on census 2017 and decision of the International Court of Justice to stay the execution of death sentence awarded to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.
The House did not take up six AMs while as many were withdrawn by the concerned lawmakers. Moreover, the Chair disposed of an AM regarding US stance on One Belt One Road Project of China as the issue had already been discussed on another motion. As many as three AMs were rejected for being in contravention of the Senate rules while one was not addressed due to absence of the concerned lawmaker.
The House witnessed ten incidents of walkouts during the session. The Opposition parties jointly staged walkouts during fourth, seventh and 12th sittings against the decision of the Chairman to disallow the discussion on a CAN after Prime Minister’s response, Ministry of Interior’s unsatisfactory answer to a question and ministerial absence from the Senate proceedings.
During eighth and 11th sittings, the PkMAP lawmakers from treasury benches also joined their opposition colleagues in their walkout against abduction of three women and their children from District Awarann and the results of the National Population and Housing Census 2017.
The lawmakers belonging to NP and PKMAP staged a walkout in solidarity with the demands of the Baloch students of Quaid-e-Azam University who were agitating for their demands concerning varsity affairs. As many as three PPPP lawmakers staged individual walkouts as well to record their protest against the actions of NAB in Sindh, unsatisfactory reply to questions and the closing down of Press Clubs in Balochistan.
This Session Report is based on direct observation of the Senate proceedings conducted by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN). Errors and omissions are excepted