ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition traded barbs on Tuesday in the Senate over distribution of standing committees, with the opposition threatening to boycott the committees and the government insisting that the committees would function even without the opposition.

As the house met here hours after election of Senators Saleem Mandviwala and Quratulain Marri, both from the PPP, as chairpersons of the standing committees on finance and revenue, and planning and development, respectively, PTI parliamentary leader in the house objected to what he called deviation from the parliamentary tradition of the opposition getting the committees having something to do with the government’s accountability.

He regretted that the committees sought by the opposition had been kept by the government and a decision that should have been taken by parliamentary leaders had been taken through a computer, saying it was unacceptable for opposition. “We do not recognise these committees. Go ahead, if you can run the house without the committees,” he remarked.

Barrister Ali Zafar urged the Senate Chairman to play his role in bringing the Leader of the House in the Senate and parliamentary leaders to the negotiating table. “Otherwise, we will be heading towards a crisis. Do not compel us to boycott the committees,” he said.

Calling it deviation from parliamentary tradition, PTI threatens to boycott the panels

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz said when Leader of the House and the Leader of Opposition discuss something, it has some sanctity. He referred to his brief meeting with the Leader of the House in which he proposed a formula of upholding the tradition being adhered to for over a decade.

He objected to the manner in which committees had been formed, adding that elections for the chairmanship of committees are never held and it becomes a mere formality after consensus emerges.

PPP’s parliamentary leader in the house Senator Sherry Rehman rejected the impression being created by the opposition about any irregularity in the process of committees’ formation.

She recalled that in 2021, the then opposition had asked for standing committees on law and justice and interior, which were not given to it by the then PTI-led government.

Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar endorsed Ms Rehman’s remarks, confirming that the then opposition was denied two committees by those who today talk about accountability.

The House also witnessed an uproar from the opposition, when the minister criticised PTI founder Imran Khan “for idealising Mujeebur Rahman”.

Amid calls for withdrawal of words, he pointed out that Mr Khan has owned the tweet. He said those who violated the Constitution repeatedly were now lecturing the House how legislation is to be done.

ANP’s Senator Aimal Wali Khan also objected to the way the standing committees were formed.

“I have not been informed when and how these committees were formed,” he said, adding he was the parliamentary leader of his party as well.

The Senate passed four government-sponsored bills with a majority of vote without sending them to the standing committees concerned amid protest walkout of the opposition PTI.

The bills were: the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Amendment) Bill; the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Bill; the Pakistan Postal Services Management Board (Amendment) Bill; and the National Highway Authority (Amendment) Bill.

Before staging the walkout, PTI parliamentary leader Ali Zafar demanded that the bills should be sent to standing committees for discussion instead of passing them without a debate on them.

The law minister informed the house that the bills have already been passed by the National Assembly.

The Leader of the Opposition said that the opposition had no objection to the content of the bills, but there should be discussion on them before approving them. He announced the opposition’s protest walkout after the law minister pressed the chair to put the bill for vote.

Meanwhile, PML-N lawmaker Irfan Siddiqui is set to be elected as chairman of the Senate Standing Commi­ttee on Foreign Aff­airs on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2024

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