Brief on Business of Senate

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Legislative Powers

Unlike National Assembly which has representation on the basis of population of a Province, Senate has equal representation of all federating units on the principle of parity. The purpose is to alleviate the fears and apprehensions of smaller Provinces regarding domination by the larger ones. In legislative business of Parliament, a Bill is required to be passed by both the Houses of Parliament separately before it is given assent by President to become a law. The Senate has, therefore, equal powers in legislation and in this way, public representatives of smaller Provinces can exercise check on any arbitrary legislation by larger Provinces. As regards initiative on legislation, Senate has equal powers of originating a Bill like National Assembly. However, in case of a Money Bill, the same can only be initiated in National Assembly and is sent to Senate to make its recommendations to the National Assembly which may or may not consider the same. In case of presidential election, Senate also acts as part of the Electoral College like National and Provincial Assemblies.

Types of Business

Generally business of Senate is divided as Senate Business, Government Business and Private Members' Business. Senate Business includes business relating to Parliamentary Committees whereas Government business includes Government Bills, resolutions, amendments and other motions introduced or initiated by a Minister through Orders of the Day. Private members business includes Bills, resolutions, amendments and other motions introduced or initiated by private members (other than Ministers). A private member can introduce a Bill, including constitutional amendments, after giving ten days written notice about his intention to do so. The notice has to be accompanied by the Bill, together with Statement of Objects and Reasons and is to be introduced on a day reserved for private members business which is Monday.

Apart from this, like National Assembly, Senate can regulate any matter not enumerated in Federal List for two or more provinces by consent, if a resolution to this effect has been passed by those Provinces. The recommendations of National Finance Commission and reports of Council of Islamic Ideology and Auditor General are also tabled in the Senate for discussion. The Senate may, by resolution, express its opinion or make any observation or recommendations on these reports. Under the Constitution, Senate also has the power to pass a resolution for disapproval of an Ordinance before its expiry, or give one time extension for a further period of one hundred and twenty days.

Under Article 69 of the Constitution, validity of any of its proceedings can not be called in question in any Court of Law, on the ground of any irregularity of procedure. The Senate business is transacted, in the order in which it appears on the Orders of the Day which is circulated to all members.

Questions by members

A member can also ask questions for which a thirteen days prior notice has to be given in writing under member's own signature addressed to the Secretary. After recitation from the Holy Quran, the first hour of every sitting is available for asking and answering of questions. There is no question hour on a day designated as private members' day. A question addressed to a minister must relate to a matter of public concern which should fall with the special cognizance of the Minister and should not be of undue length. The main purpose of questions is to seek information and also to draw attention of the government to public grievances and to get them redressed. After reply by the Minister, supplementary questions are allowed to seek clarifications on different aspects of the question and its reply. Ordinarily, not more than three supplementary questions can be asked in respect of any question. A question to which a written reply is read out by the Minister is a starred question. An unstarred question is the one to which a written reply is supplied but not read out. Each member may ask three starred and five unstarred questions on any one day.

Short Notice Question

With the consent of the Chairman and the Minister concerned, a member may ask a question relating to a matter of public importance with shorter notice than the normal notice of thirteen clear days. On receipt of such notice, an enquiry is made from the Minister concerned whether he is in a position to answer the question at a shorter notice and, if so, at which date. In case the Minister is not in a position to answer the question at a short notice and the Chairman is of the opinion that the question is of sufficient public importance to be orally answered in the House, he may direct that the question be placed as the first question on the list of questions for the day on which it would be due for answer. In such a case not more than one such question is accorded first priority on the list of questions for any one day.

Privilege Motion

A member can if so permitted by the Chairman, raise a question involving a breach of privilege either of the member himself or of Senate or a Committee thereof. A member who wishes to raise a question of privilege should give a notice in writing to the Secretary before the commencement of the sitting on the day the question is proposed to be raised. However, in the case of urgency the Chairman allows it to be raised at any time during the course of a sitting. If the Chairman holds the motion regarding the privilege motion in order, he refers it to the Privilege Committee for consideration. If a motion to that effect is moved and adopted by the House, the House decides whether a breach of the privilege, as alleged in the motion, has occurred or not.

Adjournment Motion

A member may move a motion for adjournment of normal business of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. An adjournment motion is, ordinarily, admissible if it raises an issue of urgent public importance, relates substantially to one definite issue, is restricted to a matter of recent occurrence and satisfies such other conditions. The admissibility of each Adjournment Motion is determined by the Chairman. If the Chairman is of the opinion that the matter, proposed to be discussed is in order, he shall ask the House and if at least one-fourth of the membership rise, the Chairman shall grant leave to take up the motion as the last item for discussion, for not more than two hours, on such day, as the Chairman may fix.

Call Attention

A Call Attention Notice can be made by a member to draw attention of the government towards matters of national importance. Through this notice any member can request a Minister that he should pay attention to a particular matter of national importance and take necessary steps. This notice should be given in writing to Secretary not less than two hours before the commencement of the sitting. All Call Attention Notices are put up before the Chairman, who selects one of them but not more than two notices in a week. On the appointed day, the member presents the matter before House to which the relevant Minister gives his answer and states the Government policy.

Resolutions

Members can also move resolutions which are broadly categorized as those mentioned in the Constitution and other than that. The ones not mentioned in the Constitution are moved by either member or a minister on a matter of general public interest and importance. A private resolution must relate to a matter of general public interest, primarily concerning the government, and be in the form of a declaration of opinion by the Senate. In the case of a private resolution, seven days notice has to be given whereas in the case of a resolution, moved by the Minister, three days notice is required. A time limit is fixed for each speech on a resolution. A resolution, given notice of by a Member/Minister, in pursuance of a provision in the Constitution or an Act of Parliament, is called a Statutory Resolution which includes resolution for removal of President (Article 47), resolution for disapproval or extension of time of Ordinances (Article 89) and resolution for approval of a Proclamation of Emergency (Article 232).