KARACHI, September 29, 2012 : The five sessions of the Sindh Assembly held between November 2011 and May 2012 were marked by legislation on education-related issues, and resolutions for improving access to health facilities, and condemning forced conversions of minorities, says a report launched by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN)
The report is based on direct observation of the Assembly proceedings done by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), a FAFEN partner organization. FAFEN’s Parliament Watch started observing the proceedings of the provincial assemblies in the second half of 2011.
Out of the 14 government-backed bills passed during the five sessions, eight were amendments to existing laws. The House did not pass any of the four private member’s bills during the reporting period including the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill 2008, which was deferred. However two private members’ bills: the Protection of Religious Minorities Bill 2012 and the Registration (Sindh Amendment) Bill, 2012were introduced in the House during this period.
To address teachers’ demand for permanent jobs and to provide them with opportunities to improve their teaching skills, the Sindh Regularization of Teachers appointed on Contract Basis Bill and the Sindh Teachers Education Development Authority Bill 2012 were passed. Following the passage of two other bills, the Indus Institute of Higher Education and Sindh Madressat-ul-Islam were given the status of universities.
The report said the Chief Minister attended 15 of the 48 sittings which were spread over 110 hours and 46 minutes. The Speaker chaired 38 sittings and the Deputy Speaker presided over 26 sittings.MQM’s parliamentary leader attended all but three sittings (93% of all sittings), followed by the leaders of PPPP and ANP, who were present in 29 sittings each.
While at least one fourth of the 168 member House were present during these sessions on average, maintaining quorum, the legislators’ overall attendance remained low as on average 46 members were present at the beginning and 68 at the end of eachsitting.
The House adopted 40 of the total 48 resolutions submitted by members regarding various political and social issues. Among others were resolutions urging thefederal government to publish the report on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as well as others condemning wall chalking and posters in Karachi demanding a new province inSindh. Amid the tussle between the federal government and judiciary over implementing the NRO verdict, the legislators expressed confidence in the democratic setup.
The House also condemned forced conversions of minorities, called for highlighting their contribution in the curriculum in the country’s progress, recognized citizens’ “inalienable right” to “good health”, and sought peace and promotion of girls’ education in Swat.
Though the legislators submitted 30 private motions aboutconstituency and provincial issues such as health, education and food inflation, none of them was taken up for debate.
Out of the 536 starred questions on the agenda, the House took up 278. Additionally 1,202 supplementary questions were also asked. Most questions were directed to the ministries of fisheries (36), works and services (32), irrigation (30) and industries and jail (28 each). Women legislators were more active in their oversight roles as they brought 354 questions to the agenda.
During the five sessions, the legislators,19 females and 58 males, – raised 398 points of order, consuming 1,018 minutes or 15% of the total time of these sessions.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is an independent media research, documentation and training centre working to promote and defend freedom of press. PPF is recognised internationally as a credible organization working to improve the standards of journalism and defending freedom of expression. PPF is founding member of FAFEN.
Governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), established in 2006, is a coalition of 42 leading civil society organizations working to strengthen all forms of democratic accountabilities in Pakistan.