Treasury, opposition in rare show of unanimity

Opposition gets 19 committees, 21 remain with government


Ahmed Mansoor January 18, 2019
A traffic policeman walks in front of the parliament building. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition reached an agreement on the issue of committees of national and parliamentary matters, with a motion set to be presented in the National Assembly (NA) next week regarding their formation.

After the approval of the motion, the selection process of committee chairperson will begin. In total, 47 parliamentary and standing committees will be formed, with the chairpersonship to remain with members of the government.

According to the decided quota of 40 NA standing committees, 19 will remain with the opposition while 21 will go to the government.

Apart from standing committees, national commission for human rights, women rights, appointment of election commission members, investigation of rigging, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Kashmir related parliamentary committees will also be constituted, with their chairpersonship remaining with the government.

Speaker Asad Qaiser will chair the NA’s finance committee, while Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri will be the chairperson of house and library committee.

According to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) insiders, the party will appoint any former ministers to the post of committee chairperson, opting instead for new people for the chairpersonship of the nine committees that it will get.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has submitted the names of their probable committee chairpersons to the NA speaker. According to sources, the PPP has nominated its party chief, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, for chairpersonship of the committee on foreign affairs. Seasoned lawmakers Aftab Shaban Mirani, Naveed Qamar and Nafeesa Shah as well as Mustafa Mehmood are expected to get the chairpersonship of committees on PPP quota.

Talks between the government and opposition to decide the matters of standing committees went on for two days. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan, PTI Chief Whip Amir Dogar, PPP’s Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar and Shazia Marri, PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Sanaullah and Rana Tanveer along with others participated in the parleys.

Standing committees of the House play an important role of oversight and monitoring the working of the relevant ministries of the government. In parliamentary democracies, the committees are regarded as “eyes, ears, hands and even brain of the Parliament”.

Under the rules, all standing committees are required to be elected by the Assembly within thirty days after the election of the Leader of the House. However, the process was delayed following an almost four-month long deadlock between the government and the opposition over the chairmanship of the power Public Accounts Committee.

The opposition had proposed opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif for the post, while the government was against it. It was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led government’s contention that the younger Sharif could not audit the projects that were undertaken during the tenure of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.

Despite the efforts of the government, the opposition joined hands, with the PPP also throwing its weight behind Shehbaz. The government conceded the PAC chair to Shehbaz after rigorous talks, with the PML-N suggesting that committee be chaired by a PTI lawmaker during meetings in which audit paras of the Nawaz Sharif government are scrutinised.

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