The incumbent Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) passed 129 pieces of legislation from May 29, 2013 to February 6, 2017- averaging almost three bills per month.
The legislation was warranted by requirements of compliance with the 18th Constitutional Amendment, party manifesto of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the executive needs of the province. Thematically, the Assembly legislated on institutional development or reforms in various sectors, regularization of contractual employees, governance, security, environment, transparency and accountability, says a report released by FAFEN Sunday.
Out of 121 government sponsored bills, five were to legislate on subjects devolved under 18th amendment, 42 pertained to the executive needs of the province and 41 were visible attempts to introduce reforms as per party manifesto commitments. Remaining legislations are cross cutting i.e. they pertain to either all three or at least two categories of legislation. As many as six bills can be categorized as violation of party manifesto commitments of limiting elected representatives’ perks and abolition of all discretionary funds.
KP Assembly not only legislated on effective devolution to third tier of governance (KPLGA, 2013) and forging transparency in public institutions (KPRTIA, 2013) but also came with a unique piece of legislation on time-bound public service delivery. Local government system introduced through KPLGA is considered to be far ahead of legislations made in other provinces.
KP also seized the initiative of introducing a progressive RTI law that was followed by Punjab with equally good legislation. The Assembly also legislated on independent Ehtesab Commission. All four laws are consistent with PTI manifesto.
However, no legislation could be initiated on several manifesto promises, including but not limited to civil service reforms, uniform education system, elimination of discriminatory laws against women, legal protections for disabled, land reforms and criminal justice reforms.
Through other legislations, KP Assembly covered the themes like institutional development and reforms (33), local government and good governance (17), accountability and transparency (12), security (8) and others (59).
PTI along with its coalition partners enjoys a comfortable majority support in KP Assembly making it easy for passing any legislation. However, the rules of procedure and conduct of business as well as best parliamentary practices require conformity with certain norms aimed at ensuring democratic and consultative spirit in lawmaking.
These norms include careful review of draft legislations by committees, solicitation of inputs by stakeholders and mandatory readings and discussions on various aspects of the legislations. Another norm that is followed in Pakistan’s context is an informal consensus outside Assembly among and between political parties on important legislations.
Despite the impressive number and progressive nature of bills, KP Assembly did not follow the norms in passage of almost all legislations. Only two in every 20 bills introduced were referred to committees for detailed review, findings and soliciting feedback from stakeholders and remaining all were passed without any committee reviews. KP Assembly is the only legislature in Pakistan that does not require mandatory scrutiny of legislations by committee. Effective committee system is crucial to maximize the ownership of legislations.
Despite skipping the committee system, KP assembly did not show a marked improvement in efficiency. On an average, every bill that was passed took 48 days to be passed. Theme-wise, every bill on benefits to elected representatives took on average 14 days for passage and it was lowest average time for passage of a bill under any theme.—NNI