Almost five months after Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called it quits, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) loyalist Nadeem Afzal Chan has been elected as the chief of the top parliamentary watchdog.
This comes as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is poised to scrutinise the accounts of the incumbent government led by his party.
The unopposed election of Chan as the PAC chairman marks a departure from the tradition of assigning the job to the opposition in order to maximise accountability of government officials.
A close relative of Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division Nazar Ghondal, Chan was given preference over another PPP lawmaker, Yasmeen Rehman.
The office of PAC chairman had been lying vacant since November last year when Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, stepped down in protest at the appointment of Akhtar Buland Rana as auditor general. He had also accused the government of disrupting the smooth functioning of the parliamentary watchdog.
The delay in finding Chaudhry Nisar’s replacement resulted in a five-month delay in the scrutiny of the incumbent government’s accounts.
“President Asif Ali Zardari has nominated Nadeem Afzal Chan for the slot,” said PPP stalwart and minister for religious affairs Khursheed Shah.
Previously, the slot was given to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) under an understanding reached between Nawaz Sharif and slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto under the Charter of Democracy, he added. Even after Chaudhry Nisar resigned, the government asked him to name his replacement – but he turned down the offer.
Shah applauded Chaudhry Nisar’s role in improving PAC’s performance and advised Chan to emulate his predecessor.
In three and a half years, when Chaudhry Nisar was at the helm, the PAC recovered Rs115 billion from various ministries and government departments. A major chunk, Rs33 billion, was recovered from oil companies.
“It will be unfair if one does not acknowledge the outstanding work done by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and Chan can only succeed if he follows the principles set by his predecessor,” said Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who is also a member of the PAC.
Chan vowed to uphold the tradition of taking decisions unanimously and working beyond party lines. He assured the PAC would scrutinise the accounts of the incumbent government.
Chan is also the Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee of Rules and Procedures. It is not yet clear whether he will resign from this position or keep both.
However, it appears that PAC’s days of smooth sailing are over. PML-N has nominated the most vocal lawmaker Abid Sher Ali to replace Chaudhry Nisar in the PAC.
According to PML-N insiders, the party expects Sher Ali will not allow Chan to settle the incumbent government’s ‘embezzlement’ cases easily.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.