PTI unwilling to give PAC chairmanship to opposition

Updated September 26, 2018

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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference at PID Media Centre in August. — APP/File
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference at PID Media Centre in August. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will get the chairmanship of nine committees of the National Assembly under an agreement with the government whereas the party has nominated its president Shahbaz Sharif to head the all-important Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament.

However, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government says it is not willing to offer the chairmanship of the PAC to the opposition as the committee will be carrying out an audit of the revenue and expenditures of the previous PML-N government.

When contacted, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the opposition wanted to head the PAC and it had formally made a request with the speaker in this regard, but the government had not made any final decision about it.

He said that the PTI would make a final decision about the matter after a meeting to be presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday.

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“Appointing a PML-N man as the PAC chairman will be like asking the fox to guard the hen house,” said Mr Chaudhry.

Earlier, talking to Dawn after a meeting of the PML-N’s parliamentary group, presided over by Mr Sharif, party spokesperson Marriam Aurangzeb said that the PML-N had finalised the names of those party members who would be heading these nine committees yet to be constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.

Political parties get representation and chairmanship of the committees in proportion to their strength in the assembly.

Ms Aurangzeb said that the PML-N wanted the government to offer the chairmanship of the PAC to opposition parties as per past parliamentary traditions, adding that the party had decided that Mr Shahbaz Sharif would lead the PAC.

The PAC is the apex parliamentary watchdog that oversees the audit of revenue and expenditure by the government and it is considered to be the most powerful and important committee of the parliament. Previously, the PAC comprised only members of the National Assembly, but recently members of Senate have also been made part of it.

Though there is no restriction on the government in the rules to give the chairmanship of the PAC to opposition parties, it has been a parliamentary practice and tradition that the office is given to an opposition member to ensure transparency in financial matters.

In the Charter of Democracy (CoD), signed by the PML-N and the PPP in London in May 2006, the two parties had agreed that “the chairmen of public accounts committees in the National and provincial assemblies will be appointed by leaders of the opposition in the assemblies concerned”.

Sources in the PML-N told Dawn that a party delegation had recently met NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to discuss the formation of the new committees and demanded that the PAC chairmanship should be given to them as per tradition.

The sources claimed that the speaker had also expressed his desire that the PAC should be headed by an opposition member.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018