–NA Opp leader says sub-committee of PAC headed by a PTI nominee can scrutinise audit reviews of matters pertaining to PML-N govt
–Shehbaz lashes out at ‘NAB-Niazi unholy alliance’, says govt using NAB to victimise PML-N leaders
ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that the joint opposition was firm in its demand that the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should be given to the leader of the opposition.
Addressing reporters after a meeting of the joint opposition leadership, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president said that the opposition leaders were of the opinion that the opposition leader in the Lower House should become the PAC chairman.
“This has been the tradition for the past 10 years,” said Shehbaz, who was brought to the Parliament House earlier in the day by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on transit remand for attending the National Assembly session.
Accompanied by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leaders, Shehbaz said the government’s stance that he, being the PML-N president, could not preside over the audit review of matters pertaining to his party’s previous government was nothing but a “lame excuse”.
The former Punjab chief minister said the opposition parties had devised an alternative to avoid this possible conflict of interest.
“I, as PAC chief, will not head meetings in which audit paras of the previous PML-N government are scrutinised. Instead, a sub-committee can be formed to examine matters related to the previous administration, and the PTI can nominate its own chairman for the sub-committee,” Shehbaz added.
Commenting on the arrest of PML-N lawmaker Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique in corruption cases, Shehbaz said that he had moved an application in the Speaker’s office for issuing production orders of the former so that he could attend the NA session.
“The truth behind vengeful political victimisation by PTI government is the ‘NAB-Niazi unholy alliance’ which is the worst civilian dictatorship ever witnessed in Pakistan,” he said.
He said that NAB’s partisan behaviour was clearly exposed during the Chiniot Iron-Ore project case in which the court ordered the accountability watchdog to act against the perpetrators but it not only sat on that order but also gave a clean chit to the accused. He added that PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf had told him that Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was booked and served with a notice for being the founder of a company which was created when he was just one-year-old.
“Saad Rafique miraculously turned Pakistan Railways into a profit-making national institution without firing a single employee yet this government has paid him back by arresting him,” he said.
Speaking about the placement of his son Hamza’s name on the no-fly list, Shehbaz Sharif said that his son had always complied with NAB summons and appeared before interrogators yet he was stopped from making a foreign visit.
DEADLOCK OVER PAC CHAIR:
Last week, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser had expressed the hope that he would be able to constitute the committees of the House during the session.
He stated that he was in contact with both the government and opposition parties over the issue of the committees and hopefully it would soon be resolved “amicably”.
The speaker had to stop the process of the formation of the committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott all the committees if the ruling party did not offer the PAC chairmanship to NA Opp Leader Shehbaz as per the “parliamentary traditions”.
The opposition parties claim that Qaiser in a meeting with them had previously agreed to their demand of nominating Shehbaz as the PAC chairman, but later backtracked from his commitment due to resistance from his party members.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is unwilling to give the PAC chairmanship to Shehbaz, saying it could not allow him to review the projects that had been initiated and executed by the government of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has stated many times that the government could go ahead with the formation of the committees without the opposition.
The inordinate delay in the formation of the committees has started to affect the functioning of the parliament, which has almost become dysfunctional as far as the legislative work is concerned. With the present government already completing its 100 days in office, the NA has been able to only pass the Finance (Supplementary) Bill.
Under the rules, the speaker was bound to constitute all the standing and functional committees “within 30 days after the election of the Leader of the House (prime minister)”.
Since the prime minister was elected on August 18, the speaker had time till September 17 for the formation of over three dozen house committees.
All the opposition parties had already handed over the names of their members for the committees to the NA Secretariat as per rules, but the speaker had to stop the process when the opposition announced that its members would withdraw from all the committees if the PAC chairmanship was not offered to them as per tradition.
Although there is no restriction on the government in the rules to give the chairmanship of the PAC to the opposition parties, it has been a parliamentary practice and tradition for the past 10 years that the office is given to an opposition member in order to ensure transparency in financial matters.