LAHORE – The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has demanded a thorough review of rules of procedures in Pakistani assemblies to make it in line with the democratic traditions.
The rules of procedures of Pakistani assemblies, including the Punjab Assembly, are part of Common Law originating primarily in the practice of House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Whereas the UK assemblies have introduced some revolutionary changes in the working of the House and many commonwealth countries have followed it; Pakistani assemblies are still lagging behind in term of efficiency, accountability and transparency.
For example, an MP can expect answer to question submitted in House of Common within 2 days; his counterpart in the Punjab Assembly has to wait for 12 months and in some case for 24 months to get answer of the submitted questions. Similar observations can be made for general discussion, working hours, number of working days, budget sessions, quorum, and attendance of the MPAs and legislation process.
The attendance of the MPAs in the assembly session has long been the classified information. With strong Right to Information legislation in the province, it has at last become possible to get such information.
There are, however, still some issues attached with the transparency whereas the average attendance of the assembly, as shown on its website, is 180, unconfirmed by the independent sources though. CPDI has suggested installing biometrics system at the gates of the assembly hall to take the attendance of the MPAs.
CPDI has also proposed electing one Speaker and four Deputy Speakers at the first sitting of the assembly after the general election. Two speakers should be from government side and the other two from opposition. The deputy speakers from opposition should be ready to take the chair if speakers and deputy speakers from government side are absent.
In this way, there will be a constant pressure on the government that in case of absence, opposition will get the chance to preside the session.
Rule 24 of rules of procedure clearly says that meeting time of the assembly is 9am to 2pm but this timing is seldom observed. The average meeting time per sitting is not more than 2.5 hours. Due to this practice all the agenda items on order of the day cannot be taken up.
CPDI has also suggested increasing the working hours from 9am to 5pm. It will give sufficient time on the disposal of the Speaker to complete the agenda.
Question hour is one of the most futile exercises of the Punjab Assembly for the reason that a question submitted by a member can take 2 years to fetch the answer. CPDI has suggested that all questions submitted by MPAs should be answered at the floor of the house during the next session.