ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed treasury benches lawmakers to raise their attendance level during the upcoming National Assembly session to avoid embarrassment of failing to meet the quorum under the house rules.

The government was caught short twice in the last session (26th NA session) when the speaker called for a quorum count.

Sharif issued strict instructions for sitting ministers and other members to ensure their presence on the benches to reply to questions from opposition parties, especially during the Question-Hour session.

The government side has realized the major opposition parties are prepared to create a fuss whenever an opportunity arises during the proceedings of the parliament when the session begins next week.

The major opposition parties have developed a strategy of giving a tough time to the government over its lacklustre attitude to defending its policies and decision making on the floor of parliament.

“The Prime Minister has directed the government benches lawmakers to ensure their presence in the house. All members should religiously attend the session to avoid criticism and embarrassment,” said Chairman Standing Committee of Parliamentary Affairs Mian Abdul Manan while talking to The Nation.

“I am also with opposition parties on this issue as members should properly attend the house,” said a senior member of treasury benches. The concerned ministers should make proper arrangements for replying to the queries of opposition parties.

“I think it is also point scoring from opposition parties, as normally the government arranges parliamentary secretary, minister or state minister for the queries of opposition,” he remarked.

Manan said he would float a proposal to government to tie the size of development funds awarded to lawmakers to their record of attendance in the house.

According to the National Assembly rules of procedure about quorum, “If at any time during a sitting of the NA the attention of the person presiding is drawn to the fact that less than one-fourth of the total membership of the Assembly is present, he (chair) shall either adjourn the Assembly or suspend the meeting until at least one-fourth of such membership is present”.

The opposition benches twice succeeded in triggering a quorum call in the last session. Last week the opposition raised objections about the absence of the minister when a question was raised for the Ministry for Planning Development and Reforms.

The absence of the minister not only led to protest from opposition benches but also they also pointed out quorum. The chair had to adjourn the house as the required strength of legislators was not available in the house.

“The government will again face tough time in the upcoming National Assembly session if it fails to manage proper presence in the house,” said senior member of PPP Abdul Sattar Bachani while talking to The Nation.

Bachani said that the opposition would surely point out quorum in the house. “The incumbent government after passing even over two years is not taking the matters seriously,” he said adding that they would surely teach them a lesson for their absence in the house.

Another opposition member from PTI, Dr. Shireen Mazari, said that opposition members have pointed out government’s absence many times. “The problem is that the government does not show up in assembly...It seems they don’t believe in parliament democracy,” she said.

This government has also cancelled meetings on foreign affairs on three occasions, she remarked. “We will join together only on national issues where our positions merge,” she said responding to a question about a joint strategy of opposition parties.

When contacted, Ali Raza Abedi from MQM said that the government should ensure the required presence in the house. “MQM will not support the government on any of its actions against the constitutional obligation,” he added. Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan had also recently fumed at other ministers’ absence in the parliament. He even remarked the performance of the ministers should be checked.