Sindh Assembly restricts under age marriage, passes three other bills

Karachi: The Sindh Assembly passed four bills, adopted 28 resolutions and held a post-budget debate during the longest-ever session which witnessed 19 sittings consuming 40 working days, says the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its preliminary report.

Out of the seven bills introduced, the House passed three government and one private members’ bill. Two other private member bills were not taken up and a government bill – the Sindh Coal Authority (Amendment) Bill 2014 – was withdrawn.

The House achieved a hallmark by passing the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Bill 2013 which aims to protect the rights of children by setting a marriageable age (18 years) for them. The bill declares marriage under 18 years an offence and parents, bride and groom can all be sentenced to three years in prison with a fine of Rs. 45,000. Other bills include the Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2014, the Sindh Criminal Prosecution Service (Constitution, Functions and Powers) (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Sindh Shaheed Recognition and Compensation Bill 2014.

Two private members bills – the Sindh Consumer Protection Bill 2013 and the Sindh Marriage Functions (Prohibition of Ostentatious Display and Wasteful Expenses) Bill 2013 – were not taken up. A motion for amending Rule 267 of the Rules of Procedure of the Sindh Assembly remained unaddressed.

During the 12th session, a total of 43 resolutions were tabled, of which, the House adopted 28 and did not take up 14 while one resolution was withdrawn. Of the adopted resolutions, 14 were related to good governance, followed by terrorism (seven), two each were to pay tributes and offer prayers and one each was on energy reforms, strengthening of the federation, and women rights. A total of 73 members – 25 female and 48 male – tabled these resolutions either singly or jointly with other members. The PPPP members were the most active as 35 of them participated in tabling resolutions, followed by MQM (26), PML-F (six), PTI (four) and PML-N (two).

The House debated three resolutions for three hours and 19 minutes (6% of the session total time) before adopting them. The resolutions condemned the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) about marriage rights of women, and the killings of MQM workers in Karachi. A total of 21 legislators – five female and 16 male – shared their views on these resolutions.

The lawmakers performed the treasury’s oversight through 61 out of 73 starred questions (requiring both verbal and written answers) appearing on the questions list for the session while 12 questions were not taken up. The members also asked 393 supplementary questions.

The members tabled 30 calling attention notices (CANs), of which 24 were taken up while six were not taken up. The CANs primarily addressed governance related issues such as health, water supply, security situation and unemployment. The lawmakers also expressed their concerns through CANs on the recent famine in Tharparkar, development funds and industrial pollution.

The House did not take up 15 private motions on various issues regarding the rape of minor girls and kidnapping of women/children, manufacturing and sale of fake/substandard pesticides, illegal immigrants residing in the province and the initiation of model projects of solar energy.

The proceedings were adjourned on four occasions to debate five out of 12 adjournment motions about a famine in Tharparkar, worsening law and order situation in Lyari, desecration of a Hindu temple, violence against women in Larkana and the kidnapping and rape of a five-year-old girl in Karachi. A total of 19 lawmakers – of the MQM (from), PPPP (six) and PML-F, PML-N and PTI (two each) – debated the famine in Tharparkar. The House also paid a tribute to the Street Child Football Team.

The House held the Post-Budget Debate 2013-14, which is mandatory after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, during the 17th and 19th sittings for six hours and 14 minutes. A total of 29 members – of the MQM (11), PPPP (10), PTI and PML-F (three each) and PML-N (two) – took part in it.

Spanning for more than a month, the 12th session met for 19 sittings with an average delay of 52 minutes while each sitting on average lasted for two hours and 58 minutes. On average, 33 members were present at the outset and 64 at the end of a sitting. On average, a maximum of 81 members were present at one point of a sitting and five minority members attended each sitting.

The Chief Minister (the Leader of the House) attended six sittings and the Leader of the Opposition 10 sittings, while both remained present for 17% of the session’s total time. The Speaker chaired 45% of the proceedings, the Deputy Speaker 49% while the remaining 4% time was chaired by the Panel of Chairpersons. The House took 15 short breaks consuming 45 minutes of the session time.

The Parliamentary leader of the PPPP was the most regular as he attended the entire session, followed by the PTI leader (18 sittings), MQM leader (17 sittings), PML-F leader (16 sittings) and PML-N leader 15 sittings.

The House also took up a censured motion moved by the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs against the derogatory remarks by the Federal Minister for Water and Power who alleged that the ratio of electricity pilferage is the highest in Sindh.

The members submitted eight questions of privilege (QoP), of which, only one raised by a PPPP female lawmaker was referred to the Special Committee for Privileges. Three questions of privilege were withdrawn, three were not taken up and one is pending. The members also raised 130 points of orders consuming 4% of the total session time.

A total of three protests – two by MQM and one by PML-F and PTI – were reported during the session. The MQM members protested over the Education Minister’s response to allegations and the inadmissibility of an adjournment motion. The other protest was against the alleged discrimination in the release of development funds. The House also witnessed two walkouts when the entire opposition staged a walkout over the admissibility of an adjournment motion regarding increasing cheating in exams. A PTI member also walked out of the House against the government for not taking concrete steps to resolve issues raised through CANs.

The FAFEN Preliminary Report is based on direct observation of Sindh Assembly proceedings conducted by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), a member organization of FAFEN

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