ISLAMABAD: Despite succeeding in breaking the deadlock between the government and the opposition over the issue of the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last month, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is still struggling to complete the process of the formation of house committees.
The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the National Assembly which came into existence in August after the general elections held in July is functioning with only two committees, including the PAC.
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan conceded the chairmanship of the all-powerful PAC to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in order to end a nearly four-month impasse between the government and the opposition over the issue that had forced the speaker to stop the process of formation of the committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott these bodies, if the ruling party did not offer the office to Mr Sharif as per “parliamentary traditions”.
Asad Qaiser asks parliamentary affairs minister to engage opposition
Within days after the announcement by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the floor of the National Assembly that the prime minister had agreed to review his decision, the speaker constituted the PAC and the standing committee on law and justice and the members of both the committees later formally elected Shahbaz Sharif and Riaz Fatiyana as their chairman, respectively.
The announcement made by Mr Qureshi was immediately welcomed by the opposition which termed it “the first positive U-turn” of Prime Minister Khan and extended its fullest cooperation to the government in legislative work after formation of the standing committees.
Sources said that an understanding between the government and the opposition had already been reached on the distribution of the chairmanship of 38 standing committees. Under the agreed formula, the chairmanship of 18 committees would go to the opposition while the remaining 20 committees would be headed by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its allies.
However, they said, the two sides were yet to discuss the committees to be distributed among the treasury and the opposition members.
The opposition parties, the sources said, wanted to head the important committees like interior, foreign affairs, power and finance.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan on Thursday called on the speaker and discussed the formation of standing committees and the matters pertaining to the agenda of the National Assembly session beginning from Jan 14, according to an official announcement by the NA Secretariat.
Interestingly, the handout claims that the speaker during the meeting with minister “stressed upon the need for early formation of the standing committees”.
The speaker asked the parliamentary affairs minister to make consultation with the opposition parties to complete the process of formation of the standing committees during the upcoming NA session.
The speaker said formation of the standing committees was necessary for making legislation. While pledging to make the current assembly a role model for the legislation, the speaker said that people had a “lot of expectations from the current NA”. Therefore, he said, the parliamentarians would have to make serious efforts to come up to their expectations, adding that “we can only resolve the problems of the masses and provide them relief through legislation and this is the only way to come up to their expectations”.
The speaker said the government and opposition were both main pillars of the parliament. “We cannot maintain the friendly atmosphere in the house and produce proper and effective legislation without the support and reconciliation of both sides,” he added.
While appreciating the positive response of the opposition during the previous sessions, Mr Qaiser expressed the hope that the opposition parties would continue the same attitude during the formation of the standing committees and in legislation. He urged the government benches to actively take part in house proceedings and ensure their full participation during the session.
The minister for parliamentary affairs appreciated the speaker’s efforts in resolving the issue of the PAC chairmanship amicably.
While assuring the speaker of immediate formation of the parliamentary committees, the minister said he was in contact with the government and the opposition parties on the issue. He said the government was taking the matter of legislation seriously and very soon different bills would be introduced in the house which would provide relief to the public.
On the other hand, opposition parties denied that the government had contacted them on the issue of the formation of standing committees.
Under the rules, the speaker is bound to constitute all standing and functional committees of the house “within 30 days after the election of the Leader of the House (prime minister)”. Since PTI chairman Imran Khan was elected prime minister on Aug 18 last year, the speaker had time till Sept 17 for the formation of the committees.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019