ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is “seriously considering” the option of taking an extreme step of withdrawing from all parliamentary committees, if the government does not offer chairmanship of the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament to the opposition, Dawn has learnt.
Sources in the PML-N said the party leaders during recent meetings had discussed various options to record its protest over the government’s possible move to devoid the opposition of its right on the PAC chairmanship and even the option of withdrawing from all the committees also came under discussion.
“Yes, we can go to the extent of withdrawing from all the committees and this is being discussed within the party,” said a senior party member.
Shahbaz Sharif convenes parliamentary party’s meeting today
However, he said, they had not so far taken a final decision in this regard as they were still waiting for an official and formal reply from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
The PML-N leader claimed that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, during a meeting with opposition members, had given them the assurance that the PAC chairmanship would be offered to them. However, he said, it seemed that the speaker was facing resistance from the hawkish group within the PTI which was opposed to the idea.
He said PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had convened a meeting of the parliamentary group on Monday (today) to discuss the matter and finalise a strategy.
When contacted, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said they were still waiting for a response from the speaker.
She said that after finalising its strategy, the PML-N would discuss it with other opposition parties as well.
“We will come up with a common strategy once the speaker formally informs us about his decision,” she added.
Ms Aurangzeb alleged that the PTI government was “undermining the supremacy of parliament by not giving the NA speaker his right to decide” the matter.
“The government has no role to play in terms of the fact that who will chair which committee in parliament,” she said, adding that “the speaker needs to ensure and maintain the supremacy of the house of which he is a custodian”.
The PML-N has already nominated its president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif to head the PAC and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has also urged the government to follow the parliamentary tradition and give the PAC chairmanship to the opposition.
Two camps within PTI
On the other hand, there are two camps within the ruling PTI — one in favour of offering the PAC chairmanship to the opposition and the other opposing it. After discussing the issue at a meeting on Saturday, the PTI leadership had decided to defer the final decision till Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s return to the country from the United States.
Besides the NA speaker, the sources said, Mr Qureshi also supported the idea of giving the PAC chairmanship to the opposition.
The speaker had last week met Prime Minister Imran Khan and informed the latter about his meetings with the opposition. The speaker, the sources said, was of the view that in order to run parliament smoothly, they should give the PAC chairmanship to the opposition as per the parliamentary tradition.
However, a group spearheaded by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry is strongly opposed to the idea.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2018