LAHORE: As the Punjab government sticks to its plan of not appointing Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz the Public Accounts Committee chairman, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to hamper the working of the standing committees.
The PML-N is wary of possible arrest of Mr Hamza by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) if the Lahore High Court does not extend his pre-arrest bail on April 25 in cases related to money laundering and assets beyond means, Ramazan Sugar Mills, Punjab Saaf Pani Company.
In case Mr Hamza is made the PAC chairman he can stay out of NAB custody (if arrested) like his father, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, did by holding the (PAC) meetings. Otherwise, Mr Hamza will be at the mercy of Speaker Pervaiz Elahi’s production order.
The PML-N is mulling various options, including resigning from the standing committees of the Punjab Assembly to pressurise the provincial government and holding demonstrations outside the offices of the chief minister and law minister.
“Law Minister Basharat Raja had given his word to us to make the opposition leader PAC chairman. But after Prime Minister Imran Khan asked Chief Minister Usman Buzdar not to do so, the Punjab government backtracked,” Punjab PML-N spokesman MPA Malik Mohammad Ahmed told Dawn on Thursday.
“We have decided to use all available options, including resignations from standing committees and holding sit-ins outside the chief minister and law minister offices to press the government to accept our just demand,” he said, adding that in the previous Shahbaz Sharif’s tenure the PML-N had made then opposition leader PTI’s Mahmoodur Rashid PAC chairman.
“Now the PTI government should follow the tradition,” he demanded.
In the first phase, Mr Ahmed said, the PML-N lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly and NA would not let the standing committees function.
“We will not let the Punjab government set an uncalled-for precedent in order to please PM Khan,” he said and added that the Pakistan Peoples Party had also asked the government to hand over the PAC chairmanship to the opposition leader.
The PML-N parliamentary party is holding a meeting on Saturday to finalise its strategy in this regard,” Mr Ahmed said.
Law Minister Basharat Raja could not be contacted for his comment on the issue.
PM Khan during his visit to Lahore last Sunday had appreciated CM Buzdar for not making a suspect (Hamza) PAC chairman and also regretted his decision to make another suspect (Shahbaz Sharif) NA PAC chairman ‘on the advice of someone’.
Hamza Shahbaz’s troubles do not seem to be over as NAB, on Thursday, summoned him in the money laundering case on April 22.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019