Speaker struggling to break stalemate over PAC chairmanship

Updated December 04, 2018

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Prime Minister Imran Khan declares in categorical terms Shahbaz Sharif will not be offered chairmanship of all-powerful committee. — File photo
Prime Minister Imran Khan declares in categorical terms Shahbaz Sharif will not be offered chairmanship of all-powerful committee. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday met Prime Minister Imran Khan along with other members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and discussed the issue of formation of house committees and a strategy to break the deadlock with the opposition over the chairmanship of the all-powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament.

The meeting took place hours after the prime minister recorded an interview with TV anchors in which he had once again declared in categorical terms that Leader of the Opposition and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif would not be offered the PAC chairmanship.

Those who accompanied the speaker in the meeting included Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz.

And before going to see the prime minister, the speaker held a consultative meeting with the ruling party members and informed them about the “number of meetings” he had with the opposition on the issue of formation of standing committees. The consultative meeting was also attended by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and PTI chief whip in the National Assembly Malik Aamir Dogar.

PM Imran declares in categorical terms Shahbaz Sharif will not be offered chairmanship of all-powerful committee

A handout issued by the NA Secretariat quoted the speaker as having told the meeting that he was hopeful that the committees would be constituted during the upcoming session of the assembly scheduled for Dec 10.

In his interview which was aired on almost all TV channels in the evening, Prime Minister Khan said Pakistan would become a laughing stock in the world community if they allowed a detained person facing corruption cases to preside over the PAC meetings.

The government would not be “blackmailed” by the opposition on the issue, he said, adding that they would constitute the committees on their own without the opposition members. “We are making a decision. We are forming committees. If they (opposition) are not coming, then we will form the committees,” the prime minister said.

Well-placed sources in the PTI told Dawn that the government had decided to make another attempt to engage the opposition parties on the issue, adding that the PTI would ask the opposition parties to nominate a “clean person” other than Mr Sharif for the PAC chairmanship.

“We are making efforts to break the persisting deadlock,” said a senior PTI leader who was present in the two meetings. The PTI leader, while requesting anonymity, said the government was not interested in keeping the PAC chairmanship with it.

“We will suggest very reasonable options to the opposition and I hope it will respond positively,” he said, adding that they believed that there were some capable people in the opposition ranks. He, however, said that if the opposition did not accept their offer, they would have no option but to go ahead with the formation of the committees without them.

The opposition parties claimed that the speaker had during a meeting with them previously agreed to their demand of nominating Mr Sharif as PAC chairman, but he later backtracked due to resistance by PTI members.

When contacted, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the government had not formally contacted them on the issue for the past almost two months. She said they were determined to stay away from all the committees if the speaker did not fulfil his commitment to appointing Mr Sharif as PAC chairman which he had made with them.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former chairman of the PAC Khursheed Ahmed Shah recently disclosed that Pervez Khattak had asked him to help resolve the matter, but he had advised the minister not to put a “reverse gear” and let the democratic traditions flourish in the country.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2018