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> Citizens’ Report on the 5-Year Performance of the National Assembly

NA Completes 5-Year Term under Martial Law; Ordinances Outnumber Legislation
   

 
Report
November 17, 2007
Islamabad


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The 12th National Assembly completed its full term of five parliamentary years under the Martial Law on November 15, 2007. One of the last few actions of the country’s foremost representative institution was the endorsement of the extra-constitutional act of the Chief of Army Staff of proclaiming - a “State of Emergency” and suspending the Constitution of Pakistan on November 3, 2007. In a brief session on November 7, 2007 attended only by the members of the ruling coalition, the National Assembly endorsed the proclamation of emergency and the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). The last days of the 12th National Assembly were spent under the shadow of a de-facto Martial Law which was given the name of an ‘Emergency’. The 5-year term ends, when the National Assembly has also failed to meet two vital constitutional requirements. These include the presidential address to the joint sittings of the Parliament at the beginning of every parliamentary calendar year, and mandatory 130 days sittings in the fifth year parliamentary calendar year.

 
 

The National Assembly’s legislative performance over the past 5 years remained unsatisfactory. It passed 50 bills during the past 5 years. In comparison, the number of Presidential Ordinances issued during the five years is 121 (Average 24 Ordinances per year). This means that almost 2.5 ordinances were issued against every act passed by the National Assembly. If this performance is compared with the Indian Lok Sabha, in comparison to 10 bills passed by the National Assembly per year on average, the Indian Lok Sabha passed 54 bills per year and a total of 7 ordinances were issued by the President of India per year on the average. This means that Lok Sabha passed almost 8 bills against 1 Presidential Ordinance. This also means that Pakistan issued more than thrice as many ordinances as India did. The National Assembly passed only 2 bills in the first year, 17 bills in the second year, 18 and 5 bills in the third and fourth parliamentary years while it passed 8 bills in Year 5. All except one in the 50 bills were Government-sponsored bills.

 
 

The National Assembly fulfilled its constitutional requirement of meeting for 130 days during the first four parliamentary years while it could not meet even this constitutional requirement in the fifth year as it only met for 83 days in the fifth year. It must be noted that the number of 130 and 83 days is arrived at by adopting the procedure of counting the adjournment period of up to two days in between actual sittings. If the adjournment days are discounted, the Assembly met for 65, 92, 81, 89 and 57 days during years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively. On the average the National Assembly met for 77 actual working days per year during the past 5 years.

 
 

The National Assembly met for an average of a little over 3 hours per day during these five years. A total of around 47,000 questions were asked in the National Assembly during 5 years out of which only about 10,000 or 21% were answered. During the first year of the National Assembly, most of its 43 committees were not constituted and during the combined 5 years period, these committees and their subcommittees, on an average, held 200 meetings per year. The meetings of the Special Committee on Kashmir and the Public Accounts Committee are not included in the above number. On the average each committee convened about 5 meetings per year.

 
 

Institutionally, the National Assembly continued to lack the tools and resources crucial to performing its role effectively. The completion of its 5-year period is marred by lack of respect and dignity among the general public owing mainly to the support of the present ruling alliance to the military led government of President Pervez Musharraf and the role played in the current judicial crisis and turmoil in the country – not a record any legislature can be proud of.