- PILDAT proposes weekly Question Hour of PM, parliamentary calendar, yearly work plan for standing committees, and registration of members’ voting record
Discussing 14th National Assembly (NA)’s performance for the second parliamentary year, speakers at a roundtable unanimously agreed over the centrality of the Parliament as the sole representative institution where all the national issues should be discussed and resolved.
The roundtable was addressed by a series of speakers including former NA speaker Syed Fakhar Imam, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA Syed Naveed Qamar, former federal minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Muhammad Talal Chaudhry, PTI MNA Dr Arif Alvi and Daily Jang Islamabad Bureau Chief Hafiz Tahir Khalil along with Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob.
In his presentation, PILDAT President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob proposed that there should be a weekly Question Hour of the prime minister. He said the assembly should have a parliamentary calendar and adhere to it. Standing committees should develop and abide by a work plan for every year, he added.
The assembly should introduce the system of a register of members’ Interests while members’ voting record should be registered and made public, he proposed. He also asked that now that the Punjab Assembly has made its members’ attendance publicly available, the assembly should also make public the attendance record of MNAs.
Speaking on the occasion, former NA speaker Imam said that the number of days and the working hours of the Parliament were crucial factors for its performance. He said modern parliament’s job was to hold the government accountable, therefore Question Hour was crucial.
Establishing that the Parliament should discuss amendments to the Constitution thoroughly, Imam said that in order to improve the assembly’s performance, Pakistan must learn from the example of similar parliamentary democracies such as the United Kingdom (UK).
PML-N’s Chaudhry argued that the all parties’ conferences served an important purpose of achieving political consensus. He said that PILDAT’s report appeared to be the government’s review only while it should have focused on the opposition as well.
Chaudhry highlighted that initiatives such as the new human resource policy, appointments of staff through FPSC etc were major reforms undertaken by the current leadership of the assembly.
PPP’s Qamar said the two most crucial aspects of the Parliament’s performance are the Question Hour and the legislative activity. He said the Parliamentarians should actively take part in the Question Hour to get proper answers of their questions.
PTI’s Qureshi said that it was a common perception that major decisions are made outside the Parliament, which reduces the assembly’s credibility and role.
PTI’s Alvi believed that the rules must be amended to allow for increase in question time as well as introduction of PM’s Question Hour.
Daily Jang’s Khalil lauded the assembly’s performance during the second parliamentary year especially the speaker’s role in parliamentary democracy and bilateral initiatives owing to which Pakistan will be hosting the next CPA Assembly in October 2015.
Khalil said that parliamentarians be reminded that in a parliamentary democracy the source of the power is not the majority but the parliament itself.