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Will Imran Khan head Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog?

Published May 14, 2013 01:50pm
This file photo shows Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif addressing a press conference.
This file photo shows Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif addressing a press conference.

ISLAMABAD: Winner of May 11 general elections, Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), may play a masterstroke by offering chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI). The party is also considering the name of Mahmood Khan Achakzai for the position of Speaker National Assembly, a PML-N official said, adding that the party wanted someone from an under-represented province to take the speaker’s position.

On who should head the PAC, PML-N sources told Dawn.com that Sharif was consulting his close aides on whether to offer the position to PTI chief Imran Khan.

The PAC is regarded one of the most important committees of the National Assembly that plays a crucial role in accountability of the sitting and previous governments.

Under the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed in 2006 between Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and PML-N, it had been decided that the PAC chairmanship would remain with the opposition to strive for transparency in governmental affairs.

The two signatories had also agreed to offer political parties chairmanships of the standing committees according to their numerical strength in the National Assembly.

Previously, the governments used to retain all the standing and other parliamentary committees.

After the 2008 general elections, PPP and PML-N formed a coalition government and did not constitute the PAC for some six months. By then Chaudhry Pervez Elahi was the Leader of Opposition in the lower house of Parliament.

The PAC was constituted after PML-N moved to the opposition benches, leaving the PPP-led government, on the issues of reinstatement of deposed judges and unilateral nomination of Zardari as a presidential candidate.

Subsequently in September 2008, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who succeeded Pervez Elahi as opposition leader, was given the important portfolio of PAC chairman.

“It was a commendable move by the PPP that they had adhered to the principles of the Charter of Democracy. I think we will also follow the same example vis-à-vis the standing committees,” PML-N spokesman Tariq Azeem told Dawn.com.

Sources in PML-N said Sharif was consulting his close aides whether it would be a wise move to offer the chairmanship of the PAC to Khan. One suggestion was that the PML-N should keep that important office.

The proponents of involving Khan in the PAC argued that the move would push both PTI and PPP in a tight spot. The PTI would not able to backtrack from its commitment of eradicating corruption, while PPP could not escape from corruption allegations during its five-year rule.

A close aide of Sharif contended if the PML-N would spearhead the accountability process from the platform of the PAC, it would be largely taken as PPP’s political victimisation. He added that the former ruling party must not be given any chance to escape on that count.

A source in the PAC told Dawn.com that before the dissolution of the National Assembly, the committee was hearing audit objections of the year 2006-07. Under Rule 205 of the National Assembly, a new PAC would resume its business where the previous committee had left.

The upcoming PAC would be able to dispose of the backlog within a few months and then come to scrutinise the audit objections or corruption allegations raised during the PPP-led government.

Moreover, the PAC does not have the mandate to look into the accounts of provincial governments. And therefore, PML-N would have no concerns that after getting PAC chairmanship, the PTI might turn its guns towards the Punjab government.

Shahzad Raza is a freelance contributor. His twitter handle is @shahz79