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Pakistan’s 16th National Assembly’s Performance Review: Slow-Paced Progress Despite High Attendance

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A recent report by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) evaluated the performance of Pakistan’s 16th National Assembly within its first 100 days since the oath-taking of lawmakers on February 29. The report highlighted that despite high attendance, the assembly’s progress has been described as slow-paced.

Fafen’s report emphasized the assembly’s focus on parliamentary transparency and gender responsiveness as a prominent feature of its initial 100 days. It also noted that nearly 54% of the time allocated for points of order was utilized by the opposition, indicating a level of bipartisan collaboration within the House.

Following the general elections on February 8, the formation of the government faced challenges due to no single political party securing a clear majority. However, a coalition government was established with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leading the federal government, supported by eight other parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) and others.

Despite these developments, the House still lacks 26 members, indicating a need for further political engagement and coalition-building efforts.

According to Fafen, the National Assembly conducted at least 23 sessions during its first 100 days, totalling over 66 hours and 33 minutes. The speaker and deputy speaker presided over 84% of the proceedings. Notably, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif attended only 10% of the sessions, raising questions about the government’s representation in key parliamentary discussions.

The report highlighted that 51% of the members actively participated in sponsoring agenda items or engaging in discussions. Notably, the House saw active participation from 61% female members and 49% male members. On average, 230 members were present during each session, with the House addressing 76% of its business, including the approval of a single money bill.

During his inaugural address, PM Shehbaz outlined his government’s plans for various sectors, including foreign relations, agriculture, economic affairs, tax reforms, energy, human development, and law and order. He made specific commitments such as providing high-quality seeds to farmers, implementing tax reforms, and addressing issues related to terrorism and missing persons in Balochistan.

While details from the assembly proceedings are available on the National Assembly’s website, the report noted limited availability of live streams or video recordings, raising concerns about transparency and public accessibility. Furthermore, restrictions on citizens’ access to the Common Man’s gallery were attributed to security concerns.

The report praised the assembly’s gender-sensitive approach and its responsiveness to issues concerning female lawmakers. The House adopted measures to censor inappropriate language against women lawmakers and established a Parliamentary Committee on Gender Mainstreaming to promote women’s empowerment.

In conclusion, the Fafen report sheds light on the gradual progress and challenges faced by Pakistan’s 16th National Assembly in its first 100 days, emphasizing the need for sustained efforts to address key legislative and governance matters.

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