–Opp lauds govt decision, says it will strengthen democracy and make parliament functional
–Shehbaz lauds PM’s ‘U-turn’, vows to quit parliament if NAB proves ‘corruption of even a single penny’ against him
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Thursday decided to backtrack from its earlier stance and agreed to let National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif have the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
After a period of two months, the development has come as a good news as the House had been rendered useless after the government and opposition had reached an impasse over the formation of parliamentary committees, especially the PAC.
The argument floated by the PTI government against Shehbaz was: the NA opposition leader can’t head the apex parliamentary committee as he would be auditing his brother, ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s projects, besides he was also under scrutiny for alleged corruption.
After months of impasse, the government had extended an olive branch, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan had agreed that PML-N could appoint anyone, but Shehbaz for the chairmanship.
The breakthrough came as a result of a meeting between Shehbaz Sharif and PTI’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak.
During the meeting, it was decided that the NA opposition leader would chair the committee, while a subcommittee headed by a PTI lawmaker would handle audit matters related to the PML-N government.
‘LARGER INTEREST OF DEMOCRACY’:
Addressing the NA session, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood said the PM has reviewed his earlier decision and [now] if Shehbaz Sharif wants to head the PAC, the government will not create obstacles.
“In the larger interest of democracy and in order to make the parliament functional, we concede to the opposition’s demand,” he justified the government’s change of heart.
The move was welcomed by the opposition parties, who hailed the decision as a ‘positive U-turn’.
Addressing the House, Shehbaz lauded PM Imran for reviewing his stance. He said the move portrayed that “the government wanted to make parliament functional for the welfare of the people”.
“This step will promote democratic norms and traditions and further solidify the institution of parliament,” he told the National Assembly.
Shehbaz also said that he will quit parliament if the anti-graft body proved corruption of even a single penny against him while criticising the accountability watchdog for being ‘highly selective’.
“NAB is unable to prove any accusation against me so far,” he added.
He also accused the government and NAB of being in cahoots, saying it could be deduced by observing that the PTI’s political rivals were being held accountable. He also brought up his case, saying the NAB had even failed to file a reference against him since his arrest in October this year.
Taking the PM and ruling lawmakers to the task, he said they had not wanted to make me chairperson of the PAC as I was facing investigations by NAB, but aren’t the lawmakers belonging to the ruling party facing graft investigations as well.
“Is there not a helicopter case pending against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members,” he wondered.
He suggested that the government and opposition should work together for the alleviation of poverty and offered to support the government for the smooth working of the lower house. “We are willing to move a step ahead with you in Pakistan’s interest,” said the PML-N president.
Similarly, former NA speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq felicitated the premier and said that this was his “most positive U-turn”. “If he continues to take such U-turns, democracy will be strengthened,” he said.
PPP LAUDS NA SPEAKER:
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Raja Pervez Ashraf lauded NA Speaker Asad Qaiser’s efforts “for playing a positive role” in the resolving the PAC chairman issue.
He further said that “after four months, this house will [finally] become functional”. “Hopefully, the parliament will now carry out legislative business,” he said.