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Only 13 Senators take part in debate on law and order in Balochistan

ISLAMABAD, Aug 5, 2012: Low attendance of Senators and lackluster debates on the presidential address to the parliament’s joint sitting and the law and order in Balochistan marked the Senate’s 84thsession, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) preliminary report on Sunday.

The six sittings of the session from July 27 to August 3 lasted 14 hours and 22 minutes with each sitting on average meeting for two hours and 23 minutes. Each sitting started with an average delay of 38 minutes.

Thirteen Senators – – four PPPP, three ANP, two JUIF, and one each of PMLN, MQM, NP and BNPA – debated the law and order in Balochistan for 295 minutes (34% of the total time). Senators highlighted lack of security, widespread sectarian violence, missing persons and the alleged human rights abuses in the province. Winding up the debate, the federal Minister for Interior, who was re-elected as Senator and took oath during this session, spoke for two hours and 14 minutes.

Only three Senators – two PMLN and one PPPP – spoke on the presidential address to the parliament earlier this year for 40 minutes during the third sitting.

Since the Senate Secretariat does not make the attendance record 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 the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition.

On average only nine Senators (9% of total membership of 104) were present at the outset and 22 (22%) at the end of each sitting. The Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition attended all six sittings for 821 (95%) and 808 (94%) minutes of the session time respectively. The Chairman chaired the proceedings for 55% of the session time and the remaining time was presided over by the Deputy Chairman.

The parliamentary leaders of the PML, BNPA and JUI did not attend the entire session while the JUIF leader attended six, ANP and NP attended five each, and the PMLF leader was present during one sitting.

A total of 81 Points of Order were raised, which consumed 30% of the total session time – 260 of 862 minutes. None of the Points of Order attracted the Chair’s formal ruling. Without the Chair’s formal ruling, these Points of Order do not lead to any output.

The Chairman Senate, during the fourth sitting, formed a Special Committee to review alleged anomalies in the voters’ list. It was formed after a PPPP female Senator on a Point of Order raised the issue of irregularities in the final electoral rolls released by the Election Commission of Pakistan on July 31.

Seven Private Members’ Resolutions appearing on Orders of the Day were not taken up. However, the House adopted a Resolution to condemn killings of Muslims in Myanmar. Similarly, seven Motions under Rule 218 were also left unaddressed. FAFEN observed that the agenda for Private Members’ Days (Monday) in Senate has too many items to be taken up during a sitting.

Sponsored by PPPP Members, a Calling Attention Notice about “inaction of the Government towards payments to and incomplete rehabilitation process for the affectees of Mangla Dam Raising Project” was taken up.

The House witnessed five walkouts, which disrupted the regular proceedings. During the first sitting, the PMLN and NP Senators walked out against the oath taking ceremony of the Interior Minister who got reelected as Senator after resigning over the dual nationality controversy.  In the second sitting, the government coalition ally ANP, along with NP, walked out against the power outages in the country. Due to ministerial absence in the fourth, fifth and sixth sittings, the JUIF, PMLN, and ANP Senators staged walkouts. All of these walkouts consumed 90 minutes of the session time.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.