• NA Secretariat declares 82 PTI-backed MNAs as SIC members
• Speaker calls parliamentary leaders’ meeting

ISLAMABAD: The National Asse­mbly is set to begin its fifth regular session on Monday (tomorrow), with formation of the standing committees still not in sight.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on Saturday invited the parliamentary leaders and chief whips of the parties for a meeting on Monday to discuss the strategy for the upcoming regular session as well as the next month’s budget session.

According to an official announcement, the speaker has invited the party leaders to finalise a calendar for the parliamentary year, besides allocation of time for debates on the presidential address to the joint sitting of parliament and the budget, expected to be presented in the first week of June.

The meeting will take place at the speaker’s chamber at 3pm, an hour before the scheduled starting time of the new NA session. Generally, such issues are discussed by the House Business Advisory Committee.

However, due to lack of understanding and some differences, the government and the opposition have failed to agree on the composition and the chairmanship of the committees, even more than two months after the election of Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister.

Under the rules, the committees are required to be formed within thirty days after the prime minister’s election.

Though no official agenda has been issued for the meeting, the official announcement has no mention of the issue of the formation of the committees.

The delay in the formation of the committees is not only a violation of the assembly rules, it has also started affecting the legislative business as the speaker had already referred four bills to the committees for consideration after their introduction.

The government had to face an embarrassing situation in the NA on April 29 when it passed the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill in a controversial manner after suspending the rules under which the bills are required to be referred to the standing committees. The opposition members lodged a strong protest when Law Minister Azam Tarar moved the motion seeking suspension of the rules ignoring a demand from the opposition that the passage of the law should be deferred till the formation of the committees.

During the previous session which concluded on April 29, the speaker on a number of occasions expressed concern over the delay in the formation of the committees, directing the parliamentary leaders to finalise the process as early as possible.

PML-N’s Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, who is a part of the process, had informed the house that the government had agreed to give chairmanship of 10 committees to the opposition. Sources in the government later told Dawn that besides the chairmanship of 10 standing committees, the government had also agreed to hand over the Public Accounts Committee to the PTI-SIC as per the parliamentary tradition, though there was no constitutional binding.

The speaker had initially refused to allocate seats to the PTI-backed independents as members of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) after the Election Commission rejected the SIC’s plea to allocate them the reserved seats in proportion to their seats won in the Feb 8 elections.

All these members were shown as independents on the official website of the assembly. This decision was considered to be a main hurdle in the formation of the committees as the parties are given representation in these committees according to their representation in the assembly.

However, the NA Secretariat has recently updated its website and these members have now been declared as the SIC members. A source in the NA Secretariat said these members had been declared as the SIC members, following a fresh communication from the ECP on April 25, providing information to the NA Secretariat about the names of the “independent returned candidates who joined different political parties”.

The new ECP list of the MNAs, a copy of which is available with Dawn, shows that presently there are 82 SIC members in the National Assembly.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2024

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