ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief and prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan is about to face another test case about his presence in the upcoming 15th National Assembly proceedings, as his track record of attendance in the Lower House of Parliament was dismal at best.
The PTI government will encounter the ‘grand opposition alliance’ in the Lower House of Parliament, which has already threatened to stage protests inside and outside the assembly on different issues including the alleged rigging in the general election.
The performance of Imran Khan, in terms of his attendance in the previous National Assembly, was much criticised by his political opponents.
The PTI chief during the last five years (14th National Assembly) remained present only four percent in the total 495 sittings.
In the 56th session of the last National Assembly, Imran Khan graced the House only for 24 days. The PTI chief as a parliamentary leader had also once topped in missing the parliamentary proceedings, as he did not appear for once in several sessions.
The opposition parties especially the PTI, in the previous National Assembly, was the main critique of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for missing most of the sittings. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi initially remained regular for the sessions but later he was also criticized for not attending the sessions.
The Pakistan People’s Party, the major opposition party in the previous National Assembly, also did not spare Nawaz Sharif for missing the sittings of the House.
The leader of opposition in the previous National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had very often citing the example of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s record presence in the parliament criticized the former ruling party (PML-N) about the absence of the leader of the house (Nawaz Sharif).
Yousaf Raza Gilani, during his tenure, was considered as the regular leader of the house, as he often responded to harsh queries of the opposition during the ‘question-hour’.
On the other hand, the PTI is confident to face all the challenges of the ‘grand opposition alliance’ inside and outside the parliament with its performance.
When contacted, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhary said that the PTI will make all efforts to give the best performance in the Parliament.
About the presence of PTI’s chief as leader of the house, Fawad Chaudhary said that “the PTI chief Imran Khan says the prime minister should be in the house during the question-hour”. “He (Imran Khan) will try to attend the proceedings besides doing away with other important engagements,” he said in his brief reply.
The “question-hour” is the first hour of a sitting session of the Parliament devoted to questions that members of the Parliament raise about any aspect of the administrative activity.
The PTI chief and other parliamentarians had been much criticized, in the previous session, for drawing a salary without fully attending the proceedings.
According to Member of Parliament (Salary and Allowances) Act 1974), a member of National Assembly is entitled to Rs7,000 daily allowance during the National Assembly sitting under section-4. Similarly, an MNA is also paid Rs8,000 a month for office maintenance under section 11-A and Rs10,000 a month under section 11.
The parliamentarians under section 4 of the Member of Parliament (Salary and Allowances) Act 1974 are also entitled to Rs10 per kilometre for travelling by road, Rs300,000 free travelling voucher and 20 business class return air tickets convertible for the family members.
Political pundits say that the PTI chief will try his best to attend the proceedings of the house in order to avoid criticism. They say that the prime minister always has many engagements and it will be a test for the PTI chief in the next Parliament.
The maiden session of the 15th National Assembly is expected to be summoned in the second week of August. The Constitution makes it obligatory for the 342-seat Lower House of Parliament to be in session for a total of at least 130 days in each parliamentary year. As per February 2017 data, Nawaz Sharif had attended more National Assembly sessions than Imran Khan. Nawaz Sharif had appeared in 16 percent gatherings of parliament.