Role of the Assembly
The main functions of the Sindh Provincial Assembly are described below:
To make laws
This function is naturally subject to certain limitations including:
- The Provincial Assembly cannot legislate when an emergency is declared in the country.
- The Provincial Assembly cannot make laws which are against the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country.
- Principles of policy or rule of law should be the basis for each law.
- A law cannot be enacted unless it is in conformity with the injunctions of Islam.
- The Provincial Assembly cannot legislate on matters which do not fall within its purview, although it can legislate on matters listed in the Concurrent Legislative List. However where parliament makes a law in the Concurrent Legislative List, and the Provincial Assembly also legislates on it, the Provincial law will be void to the extent of the repugnancy with the Federal law.
- Residuary List: The Provincial Assembly has exclusive powers to make laws with respect to any matter not specified either in the Federal Legislative List or in the Concurrent Legislative List. This list is called the Residuary List. Residuary matters are exclusively within provincial autonomy. It is important to note that one institution cannot take over powers of the other institution.
Manager of the purse of the nation
Expenditure can only take place from the Provincial Consolidated Fund if it is authorized by the Provincial Assembly. The Provincial Assembly exercises checks over the executive through control over the Finance.
Approval of Budgets
The Provincial Assembly has the power to approve or refuse any demand in the budget and to reduce the amount specified in the demand. Once the budget is approved, the Government does not have the right to deviate from these sanctions. For excess expenditure the Government has to seek regularization from the Assembly. Audit reports of the Auditor General in respect of Sindh province are further scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee of the Assembly.
Note that the Provincial Assembly is also a representative institution of the voice of the public and keeps checks upon policies, practices and performance of the Government acting as an oversight body. And the Cabinet is collectively responsible before the Assembly.
Rules of Procedure
At the first sitting of the Assembly after a general election, the members take oath. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker preside over the meeting but if both of them are not present, the Governor may nominate from amongst the members of the Assembly a Chairman who presides over the session.
Commencement of a session
- The Speaker nominates from amongst the Members a panel of not more than four Chairmen, and decides the order of precedence in which order they are to preside during the session only in the absence of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
- If at any sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and all Chairmen are absent, the Secretary informs the Assembly accordingly, consequently the Assembly elects one of its members that are present to presiding over the session.
A member may give notice in writing to the Secretary to move a resolution seeking a vote of confidence for the Chief Minister. The Secretary circulates the notice to all the Members and the Chief Minister then signs a statement that he/she has consented to move a resolution. The resolution may be taken on any day including a holiday or a non-official day. The Speaker then informs the Governor of the result of the vote.
- A notice may be given to the Speaker to move a resolution for a vote of no confidence against the Chief Minister,
- If the resolution is in order it shall be moved by a member, from amongst the members who have signed the resolution;
- Provided that the voting on the resolution shall be held not less than three days and not more than seven days from the date of its introduction in the Assembly.
- If the resolution is passed the Speaker will forward a copy of it to the Governor.
- Number of Sessions and Order of Business
There are four sessions of the Assembly every year. Every session begins with a recitation from the Holy Quran. The Speaker has the authority to suspend or hold another session if the points of discussion have not been adequately debated or if the matter is decided upon earlier than expected. The Assembly business is classified as government business and private business. The government business is arranged by the Secretary Assembly as conveyed by the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs whereas private business is transacted as following;
- Bills to be introduced;
- Bills already introduced
The order of priority for the introduction of Private Bills is determined by ballot. Bills already introduced are be taken up in the following order:
- Bills for which the next stage is that the Bill be passed;
- Bills for which a motion has been carried that the Bill as reported by the Standing or Select Committee be taken into consideration;
- Bills for which the report of the Standing or Select Committee has been presented;
- Bills for which the report of a Standing Committee or Select Committee is to be presented;
- Bills circulated for eliciting public opinion
The precedence of private resolutions is determined by ballot. A resolution not drawn in a ballot is be included in subsequent ballots in the same session of the Assembly. The Secretary prepares a List of Business for each working day for the Members.
The Provincial Assembly of Sindh has the power to initiate, pass and amend bills of law. However, a Bill that aims to amend the Constitution, cannot be presented to the President of Pakistan for assent unless it is passed by the Sindh Provincial Assembly and voted on by not less than two thirds of its total membership. Constitutional power for introduction and passing of money bills including the annual budget statement has been provided to the Provincial Assembly of Sindh.
The Provincial Assembly of Sindh has the power to initiate and pass a motion for the passing the vote of no- confidence against the Chief Minister of the province (only if the majority of the members voting are in favor of the vote of no confidence).
A proposal for law making must reach the Sindh Provincial Assembly in the form of a Bill. Bills are of three kinds:
- Government Bills – introduced by ministers
- Private Member Bills – introduced by any Member
- Ordinances proclaimed by the Governor when the Provincial Assembly is in recess, which are then introduced in the Provincial Assembly. The Assembly may then approve or endorse or reject it and sent to Governor for assent.
Every Bill goes through three stages:
- The first reading stage is a formal stage in which a general discussion on the Bill may take place. However, at this stage a Member may also give notice of moving an amendment.
- At the second reading stage the general principles of the Bill are debated; though a rejection is possible, but rejections are not common in the case of Government Bills.
- At the third stage, the Bill may be sent to one of the several Standing Committees, by the Speaker, who may hear from Ministers, experts, and debate the Bills, as well as recommend amendments in the Bill. The Standing Committee may even re-write a Bill from scratch.
If a Standing Committee has not proposed any amendment in the Report, the Bill is passed on to the third reading. If amendments are recommended by the Standing committee to a Bill, then they require the assent of the House.
Once a Bill is passed in the House, with or without the amendments, it is sent to the Governor, who has three options within thirty days: he/she can grant assent (convert the Bill into an Act or Law); withhold assent (veto the Bill) with the exception of a money Bill; or return the Bill to the Parliament for reconsideration.
When the Bill has been returned to the Sindh Provincial Assembly, it shall be reconsidered by the Assembly and if it is again passed with or without any amendment by the Provincial Assembly through the votes of the majority of the members of the Provincial Assembly present and voting, it shall again be presented to the governor for assent and the governor shall not withhold assent after that.
A Bill pending in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh shall lapse on the dissolution of the Assembly.
Discussions on the Budget take place by the Assembly in the following stages:
- A general discussion on the Budget as a whole;
- A discussion on expenditure charged upon the Provincial Consolidated Fund;
- A discussion on demands for grants;
- Voting on demands for grants.
A general discussion on the Budget shall last for not more than four days, provided that not more than one day shall intervene between the presentation of the Budget and the commencement of the general discussion.
The Assembly will, during its first Session after the general election, elect Standing Committees for the duration of the Assembly. Each Committee will be representative of every department of the Government, for example there will be a Standing Committee for Food, one for Agriculture, one for Finance and so on. The Standing Committees shall examine legislative proposals with the best interests of their respective departments in mind. They will also follow the Rules of Procedure of Standing Committees meticulously.
- Each Standing Committee shall consist of seven members to be elected by the Assembly and the Minister concerned as member ex officio.
- A Committee shall examine a Bill or any matter referred to it by the Speaker or the Assembly and submit a report to the Assembly with its recommendations within the specified period or the period extended by the Assembly
The function of Committees is primarily to, a) support Parliament in its role in holding the government accountable for its actions, b) scrutinize all decisions of the Government, taking into account the needs of the public and, c) to support Ministers in carrying out their responsibilities and improve their management performance, not only as oversight bodies that participate in making policies at the highest levels, but also as representative of the different political parties so that there is a fair and just consideration of those policies.
Members of the Assembly
- Qualification and disqualification of members:
Disqualification can take place on grounds of defection, and was added in the Constitution in 1997.
- Privileges of members:
Members of the Provincial Assembly are free to voice their opinions. No member can be held accountable for any view expressed or any statement made during Assembly proceedings in any court of law.