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The image shows a view of the National Assembly. — File Photo
The image shows a view of the National Assembly. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government continues to mull over the option of whether to keep the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or let the opposition PPP run the most important committee of the National Assembly.

As per the National Assembly rules, the government and opposition by now should have completed consultation process for the chairmanship of the PAC, but they are still to make a formal contact in this regard.

Talking to Dawn, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Sheikh Aftab of the PML-N, whose ministry is primarily responsible for proceeding ahead with the formation of the standing committees of the house, including the PAC, said: “Because of the budget session, the issue is still pending.”

But on the question whether the government would allow the PPP to run the PAC, Mr Sheikh said: “We haven’t discussed the matter within the party because of our preoccupation with the budget, and we intend to take up the formation of committees after the prime minister’s coming visit to China (July 4-8).”

When pressed, the parliamentary affairs’ minister said that his own thinking was that the precedent set in the last assembly should continue and the PPP should run the PAC. But a final decision would be made by the leadership and the subject was still under discussion, he added.

Aware of the fact that the government was already late on the formation of standing committees of the house, the minister again gave the excuse of the budget which the new government had to present within a week of the prime minister’s election. He said selection of the committee members after seeking their choices and then their chairmanships were a tedious job which required time. “We are on to it and will do it as soon as possible,” said Mr Aftab, who refused to give any timeline by which the government will complete this process.

National Assembly rules are quite clear on the time limit within which the house should have its standing committees formed. Chapter 20 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007 deals with the constitution and functions of all committees of the National Assembly and Rule 200 says: “Except and otherwise provided in these rules, each committee shall consist of not more than 17 members to be elected by the assembly within 30 days after the ascertainment of the Leader of the House.”

Although the deadline is there, but the delay can be condoned by putting a motion before the house, said a staff member of the National Assembly.

On the other hand, the potential PAC chairman, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, told Dawn that he had yet to receive a commitment from the government whether the PPP would be given the charge of the PAC though verbally, it had been said the PPP would keep the PAC.

“Maybe the government is waiting for the next session of the National Assembly which is a must for announcing the formation of committees by moving a resolution, but as of today I haven’t been approached by the PML-N,” Mr Shah said.

He expressed the hope that by upholding good parliamentary traditions, the PML-N government would allow the PPP to lead the PAC.

When asked if given the chance, would he himself become the PAC chairman, Mr Shah said since he was too busy in other party affairs, he would nominate some other members to take the charge of the committee. But it all depended on the PML-N’s decision whether or not it wanted to go ahead with the Charter of Democracy.

Talking to Dawn, a PML-N member said that the only reason the party was considering keeping the post of PAC chairmanship for itself was that it wanted to take up cases of financial mismanagement committed during the PPP government.

He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would make a final decision after his China visit. Despite repeated attempts, Federal Minister for Information Senator Pervez Rashid wasn’t available to give the government’s response.

In the previous National Assembly, the PPP, in line with the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed between the two parties let the leader of the opposition head the PAC.

Former leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, remained the PAC chairman for around three years before resigning from the position due to differences with the PPP government over the appointment of the Auditor General of Pakistan.

For the remaining two years, Nadeem Afzal Gondal of the PPP was picked to chair the committee meetings.