ISLAMABAD: Even before terms of reference (ToR) for the parliamentary panel on poll rigging probe could be finalised, a new controversy has cropped up over the issuance of the notification for formation of the committee

During a meeting of the committee on Wednesday, a technical flaw in the notification was pointed out by former federal minister Azam Swati who said under the motion adopted by the National Assembly, it was supposed to be a ‘special committee’, insisting that a parliamentary committee could not have been formed.

The secretary of the committee said that according to notification, it was a parliamentary committee. Rana Tanvir Hussain of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also noted that the wording of the motion was different from what had been notified.

Federal Minister for Edu­cation and Professional Tra­ining Shafqat Mahmood also opined there was a need to amend the notification.

Chairman issues directive for amendment to notification for formation of committee

Chairman of the committee Pervez Khattak issued a directive for an amendment to the notification.

Rana Tanvir, the convener of the sub-committee formed to formulate ToR for the main committee, presented a report in the meeting. According to the report, the sub-committee held four meetings between Nov 14 and Dec 13 last year. “The one-point ToR advanced by the treasury and 10-point ToR proposed by the opposition were deliberated and discussed but consensus could not be reached. The sub-committee concluded with the recommendation that both ToR be placed before the main committee for consideration/ examination”, the report reads.

The committee decided that ToR would be discussed in its next meeting scheduled for second week of February. Chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior Rehman Malik, who presented a report of his committee on general elections, will make a presentation in the next meeting.

A highlight of the meeting was a proposal by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry to declare that the committee proceedings were open to the media. “What is the need for secrecy about the committee meetings? It is a matter of elections and should be open to the media,” he said. The 2018 general elections had been held in a transparent manner and there was nothing to conceal from the media, he added.

Rehman Malik also observed that the proceedings should be open and when the need arose, the chair could declare the meeting in-camera. The members left the matter at the discretion of the chairman who said a decision would be taken at an appropriate time.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said there was no need for the committee as the polls had been conducted in a transparent manner. On this the information minister recalled that the opposition had threatened it would not allow the National Assembly to run if the committee was not formed. However, he added, the opposition was creating hurdles in the way of smooth functioning of the parliament despite formation of the committee. “Had it been in my control, I would not have let the committee be constituted,” he said.

At a stage, Rehman Malik proposed TA/DA for individuals who would appear before the committee on its summons, but Fawad Chaudhry said the government was short of funds and the witnesses should bear the expenses themselves. Ms Mazari said the witnesses could record their statements on Skype as well.

The chairman of the committee said there was room in the rules to seek permission of the National Assembly speaker for TA/DA.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2019