- In democracies laws are passed by Parliament
Forming the parliamentary committees should be the topmost item on the agenda of the NA’s ongoing session. The committees play the vital role of oversight and monitoring of the working of the ministries. What’s more various bills go to the concerned committees for deliberation where necessary improvements are made through discussion between reps of different parliamenty parties before being introduced in the NA for legislation. Party leaders in Pakistan are generally keen to concentrate power in their own hands and therefore delay the formation of committees fearing that decision making might gradually slip out of their hands. In the PML-N dominated National Assembly in 2013 decision on the nomination of chiefs of six key committees continued to be postponed till the last week of November. The PPP also could not decide who to nominate for the office of chairman Public Accounts Committee (PAC) till November. Khursheed Shah was finally elected in the second week of December.
This time committees have not yet been formed because of an ongoing standoff between the PTI and the opposition on the name of Shahbaz Sharif as opposition’s candidate for the office of PAC chairman. Imran Khan rejected the name on account of the cases of corruption filed against the former Punjab chief minister and presently leader of the opposition. The PML-N consequently announced boycott of all committees if Sharif was ignored. Imran Khan went a step further by threatening to bypass the parliament and get the laws passed through ordinances. In democracies ordinances are resorted to only when Parliament is not in session. What is more ordinances cannot be issued to pass laws that require constitutional amendments.
There is a need for a bargain between the two sides on the issue of the PAC chair. The PML-N should withdraw Shahbaz Sharif’s name who besides facing NAB enquiries might need medical treatment abroad. The PTI should accept any other name given by the PML-N. Imran Khan should end the undeclared boycott of the NA and make himself available to answer the parliamentarians’ questions on a specific day as promised. This is a must for the growth and development of Parliamentary democracy.