News Analysis |
The Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz has threatened the incumbent government that it will withdraw from all the parliamentarian committees if opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif is not allowed to head the all-important Public Accounts Committee (PAC). After a party meeting on Sunday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided that in case it fails to gain chairmanship of the PAC, then it will withdraw all its members from other committees.
PTI led coalition government has challenged PML-N over the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Both the political parties are at loggerheads; after PTI citing the conflict of interest as the primary reason, vigorously opposed the nomination of opposition leader for this position.
PTI had recently backed off after taking the principled stand on the issue, whether, it was the position taken on CPEC after an interview with Financial Times or the appointment of Atif Mian in the Economic Advisory Committee.
The PAC overseas the spending of the previous governments and scrutinizes and identifies the irregularities committed in the yearly statement of accounts report presented by the auditor general for Pakistan (AGP). In the last two terms, the leader of the opposition or any member from the opposition benches has been heading the top-notch parliamentary body. PTI, contrary to the recently developed/established parliamentary norm/tradition, has decided to keep the post to itself.
Since there is no legal hurdle which could restrict PTI government, it stood its ground on the issue. PTI had recently backed off after taking the principled stand on the issue, whether, it was the position taken on CPEC after an interview with Financial Times or the appointment of Atif Mian in the Economic Advisory Committee. It tarnished the image of the party for softening under pressure.
In spite of the efforts from the opposition and speculations by the media that PTI may opt to concede to oppositions demand to avoid any unnecessary hassle. Thus far, PTI is defending its credible stand on the issue and there are no second thoughts on the matter as of yet. After deliberations among the senior members of the party, over the allocation of the top-slot of PAC, PTI has decided to retain the PAC chairmanship.
On September 25, a session of the PML-N had decided to name party President Shahbaz Sharif as its candidate for chairman PAC. PML-N is contemplating a final move to boycott all the bodies to avoid the parliamentary accountability. The viewpoint of treasury benches make sense because after the allegations of corruption of billions of rupee, and taking mammoth public debts, expecting Shahbaz Sharif to scrutinize his own government extravagant spending is nothing less than a foolish idea.
The leader of opposition spent enormous Rs11 trillion in the last decade as a chief minister of Punjab.
The senior leaders of the ruling party opposed the possibility of Shehbaz becoming the chairman, on the pretext that the apex accountability apparatus of the Parliament would examine the irregularities of its own period in power, which is not appropriate. The PTI government has termed it a ‘conflict of interest’ as the PML-N’s president cannot be deemed fit to examine and justify the lavish spending made during its term.
The two status quo parties—PPP and PML-N had signed the Charter of Democracy and decided to dole out this position to the opposition party. PTI is not willing to carry or becoming party to the wrong tradition on the name of democracy.
A challenge to a decade of twisted tradition
Earlier, after the Musharraf regime, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government set a precedent and appointed the opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, to chair the PAC. When PML-N took over, it returned the favor allowing the PPP government to conveniently observe/scrutinize its own spending patterns. However, the incumbent PTI government is not willing to continue this precedent.
The previous two regimes, who are advocating that opposition leader should head the PAC have collectively taken the public debt of Rs22 trillion.
In its bid to uproot the status quo, PTI is bound to face such challenges. It must act boldly, credibly, independently and swiftly to implement its agenda. The leader of opposition spent enormous Rs11 trillion in the last decade as a chief minister of Punjab. It would not be reasonable to allow him to head a body to scrutinize his party’s earlier decisions—which have put the country on the brink of financial collapse.
If PTI is serious to achieve its target, it must stand firm on its decisions. The previous two regimes, who are advocating that opposition leader should head the PAC have collectively taken the public debt of Rs22 trillion. It sounds ludicrous to believe that being the head of the committee, he [Shehbaz] would examine the audit reports unbiased.