ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to go into its sixth session from today (Monday) with Speaker Asad Qaiser still struggling to end a deadlock between the government and the opposition over the issue of the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The speaker has already issued order for production of Opposition Leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif for a fourth time to allow him to attend the session which is expected to continue for two weeks.
Last week, Mr Qaiser during a chat with reporters had expressed the hope that he would be able to constitute the committees of the house during the session.
He stated that he was in contact with both the government and the opposition parties over the issue of the committees and hopefully it would soon be resolved “amicably”.
Under the rules, Speaker was bound to constitute over three dozen house committees by Sept 17
The speaker has summoned a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee before start of the session in which he is expected to take up the PAC chairman issue with the parliamentary leaders of all the parties having representation in the NA.
Mr Qaiser had to stop the process of the formation of the committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott all the committees if the ruling party did not offer the PAC chairmanship to Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif as per the “parliamentary traditions”.
The opposition parties claim that the speaker in a meeting with them had previously agreed to their demand of nominating Mr Shahbaz as the PAC chairman, but later backtracked from his commitment due to the resistance by his party members.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is unwilling to give the PAC chairmanship to Mr Shahbaz, saying that it could not allow him to review the projects that had been initiated and executed by the government of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has many times stated that the government could go ahead with the formation of the committees without the opposition.
The inordinate delay in the formation of the committees has started to affect functioning of parliament, which has almost become dysfunctional as far as the legislative work is concerned. With the present government already completing its 100 days in the office, the NA has been able to only pass the Finance (Supplementary) Bill.
Under the rules, the speaker was bound to constitute all the standing and functional committees “within 30 days after the election of the Leader of the House (prime minister)”.
Since the prime minister was elected on August 18, the speaker had time till September 17 for the formation of over three dozen house committees.
All the opposition parties had already handed over the names of their members for the committees to the NA Secretariat as per rules, but the speaker had to stop the process when the opposition announced that its members would withdraw from all the committees if the PAC chairmanship was not offered to them as per tradition.
Although there is no restriction on the government in the rules to give the chairmanship of the PAC to the opposition parties, it has been a parliamentary practice and tradition for the past 10 years that the office is given to an opposition member in order to ensure transparency in financial matters.
In the Charter of Democracy, the PML-N and the PPP had agreed in May 2006 that “the chairmen of public accounts committees in the national and provincial assemblies will be appointed by the leaders of opposition in the concerned assemblies”.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn that Mr Shahbaz had convened a meeting of the senior party leaders on Monday morning to discuss the current political situation in the country and the issue of the PAC chairman.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday issued a 19-point agenda for the coming sitting.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018