ISLAMABAD: As the first phase of elections for the National Assembly standing committees chairmanship will be held on Monday (today), the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has finalised names of its members to head the committees on communications, railways, information and broadcasting, and defence production besides five other committees.
According to sources in the PML-N, the party will get the chairmanship of the committees on national food security, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, defence production, science and technology, federal education and professional training, overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, communications, railways, and information and broadcasting.
The list shows that three firebrand ministers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government — Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Communications Minister Murad Saeed and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed — will be answerable to the PML-N-led committees.
The sources said the opposition party had in principle decided that those who had served as minister in the previous government would not be nominated as chairman of the NA committee and the party leadership had strictly followed the principle.
Interestingly, the PML-N has nominated its MNA from Sheikhpura, Mian Javed Latif, to head the NA standing committee on information and broadcasting, which is one of the most important committees going to the opposition. Mr Latif is a vocal party member who is often seen defending his party and leadership in TV talk shows. He shot to prominence in March 2017 when he had an altercation with PTI lawmaker Murad Saeed, who was then an opposition member, on the floor of the assembly before being prevented by other members as well as some journalists from reacting to an attempt by Mr Saeed to hit him in the face at the main entrance of the Parliament House.
Ex-ministers will not head standing committees
The quick-tempered MNA from Swat was angry over the remarks made by Mr Latif about PTI chairman Imran Khan while speaking on matters other than points of order in the assembly.
The two MNAs were earlier seen exchanging some harsh words and abusing each other at the red-carpeted main lobby, but they were prevented from getting physical by the legislators, security personnel and journalists present there. Later when Mr Latif, surrounded by some MNAs, was leaving the building, the awaiting PTI member again attempted to hit and punch him in the face, which was nearly missed.
The issue was finally resolved by the previous government when Mr Latif admitting his mistake apologised to Mr Saeed for making some personal remarks against him.
PML-N president and opposition leader in the assembly Shahbaz Sharif, who now heads the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has also been nominated as member of the NA committees on information and broadcasting and Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Other members of the committee on information and broadcasting are former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Maiza Hameed of the PML-N, Syed Aminul Haq of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Usman Tarakai and Sardar Jamal Leghari of the ruling PTI, and Dr Nafeesa Shah and Naz Baloch of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
While former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique is member of the committee on railways, the PML-N has nominated party MNA from Okara Mueen Wattoo to head the committee. Other members of the committee are Fazal Shah Jillani, Nauman Islam Sheikh and Ramesh Lal of the PPP.
The PML-N has nominated MNA Ibadullah Khan from Shangla to head the standing committee on communications. Other prominent committee members are former deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the PML-N, Sardar Jaffar Leghari and Usman Tarakai of the PTI and Ramesh Lal of the PPP.
The main opposition party has chosen Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan, an MNA from Sialkot, to head the committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan. Besides Mr Sharif, other prominent members of the committee are Nisar Cheema and Alam Dad Laleka of the PML-N, Sajid Turi of the PPP and Niaz Jakhar of the PTI.
The PML-N has nominated Rao Mohammad Ajmal, MNA from Okara, as chairman of the committee on national food security, Chaudhry Iftikhar Nazir from Khanewal as chairman of the committee on defence production, Sajid Mehdi from Vehari as chairman of the committee on science and technology and Mian Najeeb Awaisi from Bahawalpur as chairman of the committee on federal education and professional training.
Under an agreed formula, the chairmanship of 18 committees would go to the opposition while the remaining 20 committees would be headed by the ruling PTI and its allies.
Only last week Speaker Asad Qaiser constituted the remaining 36 standing and functional committees of the National Assembly, which had been functioning with only two committees since August, completing the process in almost six months.
The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has been badly affecting the legislative work of parliament.
Initially, the speaker had to delay the formation of the committees because of an impasse between the government and the opposition over the issue of the chairmanship of the PAC. The speaker had stopped the process of the 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”.
The issue was finally resolved in December last year when Prime Minister Imran Khan conceded the chairmanship of the all-powerful PAC to Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif.
Under the rules, the speaker was bound to constitute the committees by September 17, 2018, within 30 days after the election of the prime minister.
Meanwhile, the NA Secretariat has issued a schedule of the committees’ meetings for the election of their chairpersons.
The elections of the heads of six committees will be held on Monday (today). The members of the committees on defence production, communications, narcotics control, federal education and training, overseas Pakistan and human resources development, religious affairs and interfaith harmony will be electing their members in the first phase.
The process of the elections of the chairpersons of all the committees will be completed on February 14.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2019