ISLAMABAD: One month after emergence of the new Senate, political parties having representation in the upper house of parliament are now eyeing chairmanship of key committees as negotiations between the government and the opposition are under way to reach an understanding over the share of each side.
Sources in the government and the opposition parties told Dawn on Sunday that an understanding between the two sides had already been reached over the number of standing and functional committees and the distribution of chairmanship responsibilities among them, but the allocation of committees was yet to be sorted out.
The sources said it had been decided in a recent meeting between representatives of the two sides that the chairmanship of a total of 38 standing and functional committees would be distributed among the parties in proportion to their total numbers in the house.
According to the agreed formula, they said, the opposition parties would get chairmanship of 22 committees whereas the ruling alliance would have chairmanship of 16 committees.
Broad understanding on distribution of 38 panels already reached
The sources said the allocation of the committees would be decided in a meeting to be attended by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem and Leader of the Opposition Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. Azam Nazeer Tarar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who is leading a group of 27 senators of the opposition, may also be formally invited to the meeting so that the matter could be decided with consensus.
A PML-N delegation led by Mr Tarar met Mr Sanjrani recently and asked him to treat them as a separate group on the opposition benches at the time of the formation of the committees.
When contacted, chief whip of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Fida Muhammad confirmed that a broad understanding had been reached between the government and the opposition over the number of committees to be distributed among them.
However, he said, another meeting was expected between the two sides when the Senate chairman would return home from Saudi Arabia. He said the parties would get the chairmanship of one committee on every three senators.
Under the rules, after the formation of the committees, the house will give a formal approval to them. The members of each committee will then elect their chairmen. However, as per parliamentary traditions, the chairmen of the committees are unanimously nominated without elections as per understanding among the parties.
The sources said the government and the opposition were yet to decide whether the chairmanship of the key committees would remain with those parties which had been holding them since 2018 or there would be some changes in it as the government would definitely like to head some key committees which had been previously held by the opposition for the past six years.
Previously, the opposition members were heading many key committees, including law and justice, interior, finance, human rights, rules of procedure and privileges, foreign affairs and cabinet secretariat. The sources said the government this time wanted to get the chairmanship of the committees on finance, interior and law and justice.
After negotiating the matter with the government, the two opposition groups headed by the PPP and the PML-N will also be required to reach an understanding over the committees’ chairmanship.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2021