ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan may be determined to have a lawmaker from treasury benches elevated as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman. However, both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have launched separate efforts to get the key slot.
Background discussions with senior PML-N leaders indicate that the PPP too is eyeing the slot. Reportedly, the PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari wants his son, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, elevated as the PAC chief.
However, some circles in the PML-N close to party chief Shehbaz Sharif claim that the PPP and smaller opposition groups including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and the Awami National Party are willing to support candidature of Shehbaz as the PAC chief and have started lobbying in this regard by reaching out to certain ‘favourable’ government figures.
But senior central leaders believe otherwise. “The PPP is supporting the demand that the PAC chairman should be from the opposition benches but for its own sake. It’s Bilawal who is the PPP’s candidate for the PAC,” said a former federal minister, requesting anonymity.
Bilawal on Thursday slammed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government for its refusal to allow an opposition member head the key accountability body, giving credence to these reports.
“When PPP was in power at the centre, we appointed a leader like Chauhdry Nisar Ali Khan (from opposition) for strict accountability and oversight on government’s funds.
“The chairmanship of the PAC is the right of opposition. This government is trying to deprive the opposition of this right and is hindering real accountability,” Bilawal told the journalists.
A PML-N senator said the PML-N lately reached out to the PPP leadership and Shehbaz also met the PPP stalwart Khursheed Shah seeking the PPP’s support for Shehbaz’s appointment as PAC chief. However, the PPP has not assured the PML-N leadership of any support.
It was after receiving an unfavourable response from the PPP that Shehbaz had to say in an interaction with journalists on Wednesday that he neither approached Zardari nor sought his support on any matter
The PPP believes that PM Khan may agree to Bilawal’s appointment as PAC chairman as his track record in financial matters is ‘clean’ so far, the insider said. “Unlike Zardari, Shehbaz and other senior politicians in opposition, Bilawal is a newcomer in parliamentary politics and his name has remained away from corruption scandals. This may prove to be a plus point for him.”
But a PTI senator said Khan would not take the ‘risk’ of appointing either Shehbaz or Bilawal as the PAC chief. “Not only the Sharif family but Zardari too is in deep trouble, facing graft and money laundering cases. Bilawal’s elevation as the PAC chief would be a huge relief for Zardari,” the lawmaker said.
On Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told some reporters that the government intended to have the PAC chairman appointed from the treasury benches.
One of the most powerful parliamentary bodies, the PAC is mandated to summon officials of federal government departments and seek explanation from them in connection with alleged misappropriation of funds. The PAC’s recommendations against a senior official are hard for the government to ignore.