KP assembly outshines other provincial legislatures in access to information: PILDAT report


ISLAMABAD: As the world increasingly depends on public access to information and transparency, Pakistan’s legislative bodies, particularly the four provincial assemblies, have seen a decline in transparency and accessibility of public information since 2018, said a recent report issued by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).

According to the report, this limited access to legislative proceedings in provincial assemblies not only goes against the fundamental principle of transparency but also erodes public trust in these assemblies.

“In this digital age, the availability of information regarding the performance of provincial assemblies remains a challenge, with crucial information often unavailable on the websites of these assemblies. Despite the requirement for elected legislatures to provide easy public access to information, these assemblies have consistently failed to promote transparency and accessibility,” it said.

The PILDAT report offers insights into the transparency and information access status of the four provincial assemblies. Based on publicly available information on their websites, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly leads the way with a score of 8.5 out of 11. Notably, it is the only assembly providing live telecasts of its proceedings.

In contrast, the Punjab Assembly has chosen to withhold information and access, no longer providing complete information on its website. Despite being the first to introduce live webcasts of assembly proceedings in 2002, the Punjab Assembly suspended this practice in 2021 and has not resumed it since.

The Punjab Assembly ranks second with a score of 7 out of 11 when compared to the other assemblies. However, among the four provincial assemblies, only the Punjab Assembly has provided complete attendance records of its Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) on its website. The Balochistan Assembly ranks third with a score of 6.5 out of 11, while the Sindh Assembly provides the least information on its website and ranks last with a score of 5.5.

Regarding verbatim debates, only the Sindh Assembly does not provide public access, while the KP Assembly stopped uploading verbatim reports after July 26, 2022. Both the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Balochistan have provided up-to-date verbatim records on their respective websites.

PILDAT’s comparative analysis of the performance of the four provincial assemblies shows that their overall performance aligns with that of the 15th National Assembly, which did not contribute significantly to strengthening democracy or introducing critical legislative reforms.

Despite the premature dissolution of the Punjab and KP Assemblies on January 14 and January 18, respectively, and the Sindh assembly’s dissolution on August 11, 2023, just before completing its term, the provincial assembly of Balochistan has continued its five-year term until August 12, 2023.

The provincial assembly of Sindh outperformed the other three provincial assemblies in terms of sittings held during its five-year term, with 326 sittings, averaging 65 sittings per year. The provincial assembly of Punjab convened for 274 days during its 4 years and 5 months’ tenure, with an average of 62 sittings per year. The KP Assembly held 248 sittings with an average of 56 sittings per year, while the provincial assembly of Balochistan convened the lowest number of sittings, with 241 sittings averaging 48 sittings per year over five years.

In terms of working hours, the provincial assembly of Sindh convened for the most hours, totaling 921 hours with an average of 184 hours and 20 minutes per year during its five-year term. On average, the cost of a working hour in the Sindh Assembly during these five years stood at Rs14.94 million, as per the allocated budget.

The KP Assembly met for 574 hours and 27 minutes, with an average of 130 hours per year, and an average of 2 hours and 21 minutes per sitting. The allocated budget for the KP Assembly indicated an average cost of Rs13.31 million per working hour during its term.

The provincial assembly of Punjab convened for 530 hours and 47 minutes, averaging 120 hours and 12 minutes per year. Their average working hours per sitting were estimated at 2 hours, with an average cost of Rs26.34 million per working hour according to the allocated budget during the five-year term.

The Balochistan Assembly, despite having the lowest number of laws passed, sittings, and working hours, allocated the highest budget on average, approximately PKR 31.1 million per member per year during its five-year term. Over these five years, the per-member budget for the provincial assembly of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stood at Rs16.3 million and Rs11.9 million per year, respectively. The lowest budget allocation per member per year was in the provincial assembly of Punjab, at Rs8.5 million.

On average, the provincial assembly of Punjab spent the most days in budget sessions per year, with 11 days, while the provincial assembly of Sindh spent 9 days per year in its budget sessions. Both the provincial assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan spent only 8 and 7 days, respectively, which are the lowest number of days spent per year in budget sessions.

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