With less than two months remaining for the current parliamentary year to end on 11 March, the Senate is required to be in session for over five weeks or 37 days to meet the constitutional requirement of 110 working days.
The upper house of Parliament has so far met for 73 days with the current (295th) Senate session ongoing. Article 54 (2) of the Constitution of Pakistan provides that there shall be at least three sessions of the National Assembly (and Senate) every year, and not more than 100 and 20 days shall intervene between the last sitting of the National Assembly (and Senate) in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session. "Provided that the National Assembly (and Senate) shall meet for not less than one hundred and ten days in each year," the Article reads.
Before the start of the ongoing Senate session on January 1, the upper house had met for only 56 days till December 31, 2019, in the current parliamentary year 2019-20, which began on March 12, 2019.
The last regular Senate session (293rd) session of the Senate was held on August 29-September 3 and there was an unprecedented gap of 120 days between the two regular sessions (293rd and 295th).
Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani summoned 294th session of the Senate on November 5 which concluded on November 15, but this was a requisition session (not a regular session) summoned on the requisition of the joint opposition.
In addition, before the start of the current Senate session, the Senate Secretariat wrote three letters to Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs asking the ministry to play its role in summoning the Senate session to ensure that the constitutional requirement of 110 working days was met, sources told Business Recorder.
The opposition also came down hard on the government for the 'haste' in which the ongoing session was summoned on a 24-hour notice on January 1.
A Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senator, requesting anonymity, told Business Recorder that, in the recent past, the government was reluctant to convene Senate session due to the government's tense relationship with the opposition. "However, the ice of hostility melted between the treasury and opposition benches after the former reached out to the latter to garner support on Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2020," the lawmaker said.
"The government and opposition have reached an informal or unwritten agreement that the government would not rely on presidential ordinances and consult opposition for parliamentary legislation on important matters. In return, the opposition has assured the government of its support in the legislation process," the senator said.
Since January 8, the treasury and opposition benches in Senate have come together to pass a number of important bills; both government and private member bills including those presented by opposition senators.
The government bills passed in the ongoing session include Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2020, Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act 2020, Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act 2020, Federal Government Employees Housing Authority Bill 2019 and Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Bill 2019.
The key private member bills passed by Senate include Islamabad Community Integration Bill 2019, moved by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Maqbool Ahmad.
The Post Office Bill 2019 moved by treasury benches' Senator Khushbakht Shujat from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has also been passed by Senate.
Important government bills that are expected to be passed by the upper house in the coming days include Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2020, ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill 2020, Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Bill 2020, Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill 2020, Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill 2019 and Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) bill 2019 as well as other bills.