Amid calls by members of the Upper House of parliament for judicious distribution of chairpersonships of the Senate standing committees among political parties, experts say no rules have yet been framed to ensure distribution of standing committee members and chairpersons among political parties and independent candidates per their strength.
Interestingly, both the major political parties – the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – have lesser share in terms of chairpersons of committees as compared to their strength in the Senate.
Interestingly, minor parties have been given more share per their numeric strength – under a policy of accommodation of coalition partners by the PPP Co-chairman President Asif Ali Zardari.
Awami National Party (ANP) has 12 Senators while it has been given chairmanship of seven standing committees, while Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) has four Senators but it has two chairmen of committees.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has six Senators of which four are chairmen of committees, while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has seven senators of which three are chairmen.
The National Party (NP) has a single member and has been given a chairmanship, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) also has one member who is a committee chairman as well.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) has five members of who two are chairpersons of committees.
In contrast, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has 15 senators, but it has been given the chairpersonship of only four committees. Likewise, the PPP has 39 senators out of which only 10 are chairmen.
Independent candidates have a strength of 11, but only have three chairmanships.
A well-placed source told Pakistan Today that most of the lawmakers of two major political parties – the PPP and PML-N – and independent members were disappointed for not being named members of any standing committee.
“I have been running from pillar to post for nomination of any standing committee so as I could contribute anything for the sake of my country, but to no avail. Since I have been elected as an independent candidate, neither the treasury nor the opposition is helping me out,” a member of the Senate said.
He said he did not want to divulge his name as he might be taken in the wrong context.
“Despite my active participation in important legal and constitutional matters, I have time and again been ignored as the leadership of both major parties wants to avoid my presence,” he said, adding that he wanted to contribute for the cause of the country, not for his personal gain.
Another Senator from the PPP said he was disappointed for being neglected while minor parties had been given share more than their strength.
He said he had become sick of the policy of accommodation of his party’s leadership as the party’s true representatives were being ignored in the process.
Talking to Pakistan Today, noted expert on parliamentary affairs Izhar Amrohvi said there were no rules framed by the Upper House of the parliament on election of standing committees, making the chairman of Senate a powerful entity to make decision on his sweet will.
“Under the law, this is discretion of the ruling party and the chairman of Senate to decide the nomination of members of the committees and the chairpersonships. Traditionally, the government seeks nominations from political parties for members and chairpersonships of the committees and later the same is announced by the chairman of Senate,” he said.
Amrohvi added that the government made sure that its members were in majority in each committee, so that no chairperson could go against its will.
He said all parties were dependent on the government for their share in the committees. However, he said under the law, it was the prerogative of the chairman of the Senate to make the appointments.
“Back in 1990s, a government of the PML-N had appointed all the chairmen of the standing committees from the ruling party and no opposition member was appointed as chairman,” he said.
He said under the law, the appointment of public accounts committee (PAC) chairman could also be appointed on choice of the government and there was no obligation under the law to appoint leader of the opposition as the chairman of the PAC.
“Majority is authority in democracy. But the House may also adopt rules to improve the law,” he concluded.
ANP’s Senator Haji Adeel heads the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, while Advocate Daud Khan Achakzai chairs committee on communications and Postal Services.
Zahid Khan is the chairman of the water and power committee, while Afrasiab Khattak heads the committee on human rights.
Committee on housing & works is headed by Senator Shahi Syed while committee on inter-provincial coordination is chaired by Farah Aqil, while Abdul Nabi Bangash chairs the committee on education and training.
Senator Kalsoom Parveen of Balochistan National Party Awami (BNP-A) chairs the committee on cabinet secretariat and capital administration and development, while Mir Muhammad Ali Rind heads the committee on national harmony.
JUI’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi chairs the committee on railways, while Senator Talha Mahmood heads the committee on interior and narcotics control. Hafiz Hamdullah is the chairman of committee on religious affairs and committee on commerce is being looked after by Haji Ghulam Ali.
Committee on Rules of Procedures & Privileges is headed by Col (r) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the MQM, while committee on national heritage and integration is chaired by Shirala Mallick.
Committee on finance, revenue, economic affairs, statistics, planning and development and privatization is taken care of by Nasreen Jalil.
The committee on human resource development is being looked after by Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, while PML-F’s Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah is the chairman of committee on national food security and research.
PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain Syed chairs the committee on defence and defence production, while the committee on information & broadcasting is chaired by Kamil Ali Agha.
PML-N has chairpersonship of less significant committees, including Syed Zafar Ali Shah of national health services, regulations and coordination, Prof Sajid Mir of Science and Technology, Raja Zafarul Haq of industries and production.
The senate committee on textile industry is chaired by Senator Mushahidullah Khan.
PPP’s Saeed Ghani chairs the committee on government assurances, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Muhammad Hassani heads ports and shipping, Muhammad Yousaf heads committee on petroleum & natural resources, while committee on law, justice & parliamentary affairs is headed by Muhammad Kazim Khan.
The standing committee on climate change is headed by Saeeda Iqbal, while functional committee on problems of less developed areas is chaired by Mir Muhammad Yousaf Badini.
Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Ali Baloch chairs the Senate house committee, while Syeda Sughra Hussain Imam heads the library committee.
Of 11 independent senators, the committee on information technology and telecommunication is chaired by Muhammad Idrees Khan Safi, states and frontier regions committee by Muhammad Saleh Shah and the committee on overseas Pakistanis is looked after by Engr Malik Rashid Ahmed Khan.