Friday, February 12, 2010

Parliamentarians Just Wanna Have Fun

A couple of stories I missed this past couple of weeks that really should be highlighted. If you haven't seen these yourself, you really should.

Making Hay

The first of these actually appeared in The Nation on January 25 and details the scam being perpetrated in (at least) the Punjab's Layyah district in the name of the Benazir Tractor Scheme. Here the PMLQ's MNA Sardar Bahadur Ahmad Khan Sehar and his relatives - who own thousands of acres of land - bagged 48 out of the 63 tractors supposedly to be given to small farmers. And that too in a supposedly random computerised ballot!

The News in an editorial on this blatant rigging had this to say about it:

Free tractors
Monday, February 08, 2010
A tractor is an essential piece of agricultural equipment in these days of mechanised farming, but most of our small farmers cannot afford what for them is a luxury item. Thus, there were many who hoped that the ‘Benazir Tractor Scheme’ — which made available by computerised ballot 5,000 tractors for Punjab, 2,000 for Sindh, 1,200 for NWFP and 850 for Balochistan – might bring a change in their fortunes. The scheme was open to farmers who own 25 acres or less of land and on September 12, 2009, about 340,000 applications were received, of which 277,106 were finalised for balloting. So far so good, except that when the results of the ballot were declared in Punjab, there were – to put it mildly — some statistical anomalies. In a pioneering move, those who organised the balloting managed to take out the ‘random’ element and rig the result, benefiting a range of delighted new tractor owners who were not eligible for the scheme in the first place on account of being the owners of thousands of acres of land rather than a meagre 25.
A quite remarkable 48 members of a single family in District Layyah out of a total draw for the area of 63 bagged themselves new tractors worth about Rs29 million – not a bad trick if you can pull it off. And to which family do these lucky people belong? Why none other than MNA Bahadar Ahmad Khan Sehar… what an extraordinary coincidence. Forty-eight poor farmers doubtless looked at one another, shrugged their shoulders and muttered the national mantra – ‘this is Pakistan’. Indeed it is, and this being Pakistan, a number of powerful individuals in a range of institutions including a bank and at least two political parties conspired together to rob poor people of an opportunity to better themselves. This being Pakistan, nobody is going to be taken to task for this blatant manipulation of a scheme that, if properly administered, would have lifted thousands out of poverty. Instead, the feudal landowners have once again ensured that the poor and downtrodden remain just that. The politicians have served themselves and the patronage system well and, this being Pakistan, the status quo has been preserved. A by-product of the scam is that somebody learned how to manipulate a computerised random ballot – which must be excellent news for those contemplating any future computerised general election.

The total worth of the tractors? A mere 29 million.

The Sweat and Toil of Legislating

The second story comes to us from the good folks at FAFEN or the Free And Fair Election Network, "a network of 30 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan" and who have been monitoring the performance (or in this case, lack of performance) of our elected assemblies. Their monitors who observe the goings on in parliament then report their findings regularly at the end of each session. Here are some of their observations on the last National Assembly session that concluded on January 29:

The participation of MNAs i.e. 46 percent in the eighteenth session was relatively higher than earlier sessions during the ongoing parliamentary year. 

So, basically, 54 percent of legislators (183 out of 338!) could not be bothered to show up for their job at all. And this was an improvement over previous sessions?! Will they show up to collect their salaries and TA / DA? You can bet they will.

The 15 daily sittings of the Eighteenth Session of the National Assembly included a total of 50 hours and 01 minute of parliamentary business. The average length of a sitting was 3 hours and 20 minutes. The shortest sitting lasted 1 hours and 34 minutes. Each sitting started late by an average of 28 minutes.

Will someone please give us all a job where, if you bother to show up at all, your workday consists of about 3 hours?

As many as 646 questions were raised by MNAs during the course of the session, of which 420 were responded to by the relevant ministers. However, relevant ministers were absent at 9 out of the 15 sittings during the question hour.

Now that's an even better job. And I like that figure of 420.

42 bills were listed on the Orders of the Day for consideration by the House. One of these bills was rejected. Out of the remaining 41, 10 bills were passed. 23 resolutions were on the agenda of the Eighteenth Session, but only six were taken up by the House. 42 % of items on the Orders of the Day (less then half of the business agenda of the House) were not addressed during the session.

10 bills passed, 6 resolutions "taken up", 58 percent of agenda items addressed. In 15 days. Now that's what you call efficiency.

175 Points of Order were raised. However, none of them required Speaker’s Ruling, indicating their inappropriateness vis-à-vis procedural definition. 

Great. Efficient and relevant. Incidentally, the most activity the National Assembly saw.

The only people to come out well from this analysis were Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who attended every sitting in full and, to an extent, women parliamentarians who managed to move 12 out of the total 18 private members' bills, whatever became of them eventually. Activists often wonder why people badmouth democratic dispensations so much. It's not that they like the alternatives any more. They just express their disgust with what becomes of their aspirations.


Anonymous said...

Tractor khareedne ka SAHEE tareeqa...

efff said...

Sardar Full Kameena Khan is one 'poor ' guy with some bad luck that his little thingy was picked up by media, otherwise its no big deal.

takhalus said...

how bout a mention of Ajmal Khattak..despite serving as mna and senator he died in a katcha house with no plots to his name

sana k. said...


Anonymous said...

Ajmal Khattak was my neighbor in Akora Khattak, his son works in a dept store in the US. Im very saddened that the attack on sheikh rashid over shadowed the death of a great man. Very humble and his bhaitak was always open, often people walking in and out having several 'pyalas' of chai. They live very very modestly. Just look at the pictures and videos of his house.