According to the official website of the National Assembly, there are 176 private member bills that are waiting final voting. The bills after their introduction had been sent to their respective standing committees for mandatory reports, and now until and unless the relevant committees do not provide their reports on the bills, they cannot be presented to the house for voting.
It would be right to deduce that with the dissolution of the lower house of the parliament impending, these bills will die their natural death.
A private member bill is a piece of legislation that any member or a group of members of the house formulate on an issue of importance on their own without formal input from the treasury benches.
The National Assembly’s rules of business do not put a time limit within which a private member bill after introduction must be presented for final voting.
Yasmin Rehman, an active member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), accepted the fact that private member bills were not taken seriously by the house and members.
She had moved a private member bill to seek an amendment in the Census Ordinance 1959. If it had been passed, the federal government would have been bound to carry out national census in the country after every 10 years.
“The last census was conducted in 1998, and the only purpose behind moving this bill was to ensure that the federal government through official gazette notification will direct all concerned departments to ensure allocation of necessary resources for the highly important exercise of census on time,” she said.
“I am trying my level best at my own that the concerned standing committee timely prepares its report to present before the house is dissolved,” she added.
Another lawmaker from the PPP, who didn’t want to speak on the record, said that the National Assembly rule of procedure number 235 states that the concerned standing committee after receiving a bill was supposed to present its report within 30 days.
However, the said condition was never implemented in most cases. The National Assembly’s website shows 36 private members bill that were presented in 2008, but their reports from standing committees were not available.
According to the PPP lawmaker, this culture of apathy needs to be looked at seriously by members sitting on both sides of the aisle and may be the upcoming National Assembly could introduce new changes in the rules of the procedure, so that in the future if a private member bill is allowed to be introduced before the house, it gets due treatment afterwards.
A senior official who advises the government on parliamentary affairs said that though the present assembly had passed all important bills and amendment, including the 18th, 19th and 20th amendment in the constitution, it still had room to do more legislation.
“The basic job of the house is to legislate, and one may hope the coming National Assembly will learn from the experiences over the last five years,” remarked the government official.
Some important private member bills that have no chance of getting through…
Bill Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, 2008 Conservation and Management) (Amendment) Act Working Women (Protection of Rights) Act 2008 Charter of Child Rights Act 2009 Reproductive Healthcare and Rights Act 2010 Rehabilitation Authority for Victims of 2010 Violence and Abuse Act De-weaponisation of Pakistan Act 2011 Hindus Marriage Act 2011 Compulsory Declaration of Assets Act 2012 Pakistan Food Security for Poor People Bill 2012 Acid Throwing and Burn Crime Bill 2012 Works of Defence (Amendment) Act 2012 National Commission for Child Rights Bill 2012 Torture and Custodial Death Punishment Bill 2013