ISLAMABAD June 27, 2012: Only 29 out of 65 Members of the Balochistan Assembly spoke on the budget 2012-13 for almost 60% of the 32nd session time that concluded on June 20, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) preliminary report on Wednesday.
Thirty-six legislators (55% of the membership – 65) did not express views on the budget. Since the Balochistan Assembly has only two Members on the Opposition benches who seldom make it to the House, the budget was swiftly passed. No cut motions – a means to express disapproval or dissatisfaction over the budgetary proposals – were moved by any of the MPAs during the session. In the first sitting the Finance Minister presented the budget in an hour and five minutes long speech.
Overall legislators’ participation and interest remained low in the budget session. Twenty percent of the MPAs who took part in budget debate were women, although they constitute less than 18% of the Assembly’s strength. The debate on the budget took place for five hours and 27 minutes.
A party-wise analysis shows that 53% percent (eight out of 15) legislators of ruling Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) spoke for 84 minutes. Eighty percent (four out of five) of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) legislators took 45 minutes to express views on budget, followed by 67% (two out of three) of Awami National Party (ANP) legislators who spoke for 38 minutes; 60% (six out of 10) Jamiat Ulema Islam for 64 minutes; 29% (two out of seven) Balochistan National Party Awami for nine minutes; and 23% (three out of 13) Like Minded Group legislators spoke for 57 minutes. Three Independents also marked their participation by expressing views on budget for 25 minutes.
The sole Member of JUI (Ideological) only spent five minutes to express his opinion on the budget, while the PMLN MPA remained silent. The session lasted nine hours and four minutes as the House took only six sittings to pass the provincial budget. Each of these sittings lasted an average of an hour and 31 minutes, with an average delay of 21 minutes.
Three treasury-backed bills – other than the Finance Bill – appearing on the Agenda were not taken up by the House. Since the Balochistan Assembly Secretariat does not make attendance records of its Members public, FAFEN conducts a headcount of legislators at the beginning and end of each sitting and documents the actual time spent on the floor of the House by Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.
The Chief Minister attended five sittings for 465 minutes while the Leader of the Opposition remained absent throughout the session. The PML parliamentary leader attended six sittings, followed by five each by BNPA, ANP, JUI and PMLN, and three sittings each by the leaders of NP and JUI (I). The party leader of Like Minded Group did not attend the entire session.
The attendance of Members remained low during the session. On an average, 28 MPAs were present at the start of each sitting while a similar number of legislators were present at end. A total of 26 Members (40% of total membership) were present during the 6th sitting when the Finance Bill 2012-13 was passed. The Speaker chaired the proceedings for 74% of the session time while the remaining time 26% was chaired by Members of Panel of Chairpersons.
The lack of Quorum remained an issue during the entire session. According to FAFEN observation, it was visibly lacking at various stages of the session. The session witnessed a single protest by an ANP legislator against the inaction of a committee formed to look into the issue of the clerks’ association.
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