PESHAWAR, September 19, 2012: Amid difficult circumstances the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly continued to perform its duties taking up sensitive issues for debate and legislation including a groundbreaking law on enforcing women’s right to own property, according to a report launched by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN ).
The report is based on the direct observation of the Assembly proceedings done by PAIMAN which is a FAFEN partner organization. It covers six sessions between September 9, 2011 and May 12, 2012. FAFEN’s Parliament Watch project started observing the proceedings of the provincial assemblies in the second half of 2011.
Over the years Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has seen a spate of terrorist attacks, becoming a flashpoint for insurgency targeting government officials, security forces and ordinary civilians.
The report says the House debated the energy crisis, ethno-linguistic tensions and subjects like health and education during the reporting period, but expressed concern over less number of legislators taking part in the proceedings.
Tensions between ethno-linguistic groups and the energy issue were addressed on the floor of the House that met for 41 sittings spanning 55 hours. Focus on these issues was addressed through a bill for the promotion of regional languages in the province, and two resolutions regarding load shedding and issuance of correct electricity bills.
The House passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regional Languages Authority Bill 2011 to preserve, promote and teach the province’s indigenous languages, including Pashto, Hindko, Khowar, Seraiki, and Kohistani etc.
Female legislators tabled various agenda items on women rights. Additionally, reflecting trends at the federal level, a private member\’s bill on the agenda was passed – a welcome change from the mostly treasury-driven legislative business in the past. Tabled by a female PPPP legislator, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Enforcement of Women Ownership Rights Bill 2011 safeguards women\’s right to own property.
Overall, 15 of the 28 bills on the agenda were passed during the period under review.
The two government bills that proposed establishing universities in Haripur and Charsadda were withdrawn after they were tabled in the House. However, legislators drew the House\’s attention towards the education sector through 13 call attention notices (CANs). Overall 67 CANs were tabled during the reporting period, 47 on issues such as education, health, tribal affairs and local government were debated.
An adjournment motion condemning the US congressional hearing on Balochistan was taken up. This was the only instance of members tabling an agenda item irrespective of political party affiliations, as the movers belonged to both the opposition and coalition parties – MMAP, PMLN and PPPP.
Bringing relevant agenda on the floor of the House that is reflective of public and provincial needs, and its effective disposal is only possible through extended involvement and commitment of legislators. This can be measured by indicators such as the number of times the assembly met during the year, duration of the sittings, and the attendance and participation of the Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and the Speaker, parliamentary leaders as well as other members.
The Chief Minister attended three sittings while the Leader of the Opposition was present in 23. Similarly, attendance of parliamentary leaders was also low, with the most sittings attended by the PML leader (21), followed PPPS (20), PPPP (16), and PMLN (five).
More than half (56%) of the session time was presided over by the Speaker, and 39% by the Deputy Speaker. During the reporting period on average 31 legislators were present at the beginning and 37 at the adjournment of each sitting, not exceeding 30% of the total strength of 124. Although quorum – the 1/4th of total members required for the Assembly to proceed – was met on average in all sittings, the low attendance of the legislators is a worrying trend.
The Annual Report is based on direct observation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly proceedings conducted by PAIMAN Alumni Trust, a member organization of FAFEN