Shahbaz elected PAC chairman unopposed

ISLAMABAD: After months of wrangling between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) over the issue of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) chairmanship, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif was elected unopposed chairman of the parliamentary watchdog.

Soon after his election, Mr Sharif summoned the first formal meeting of the PAC on Dec 28.

The PAC is the apex parliamentary watchdog that oversees the audit of revenue and expenditure by the government and it is considered to be the most powerful and important committee of parliament.

Previously, the PAC comprised only National Assembly members, but in the recent past members of the Senate have also been made part of it.

Though there is no restriction on the government in the rules to give the chairmanship of the PAC to opposition parties, it has been a parliamentary practice and tradition that the office is given to an opposition member to ensure transparency in financial matters.

The PTI government was earlier reluctant to give chairmanship of this vital parliamentary committee to the opposition leader contrary to the traditional practice. However, the PTI agreed to it last week and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced in the National Assembly that Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to not stand in the way of Mr Sharif, if he wanted to head the PAC.

The PML-N had refused to nominate another member from the party to head the PAC, arguing that according to parliamentary tradition, the leader of the opposition should become chairman of this committee.

The PAC convened its meeting in committee room No. 2 of Parliament House to elect the chairman.

National Assembly member Sheikh Rohale Asghar proposed the name of Mr Sharif for the PAC chairmanship and Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed seconded his name.

The 29-member committee unanimously approved Mr Sharif’s name for the PAC chairman and subsequently his name was formally notified.

A senior official of the PAC secretariat told media that although there was an understanding between the PTI and PML-N over the name of Mr Sharif for the PAC chairmanship, as per parliamentary tradition, it was required to be done through a proper procedure.

Subsequently, Mr Sharif’s name was presented before the committee to get the formal nod of its members, he said.

The PAC had been lying dormant since May this year after completion of the five-year term of the previous National Assem­bly’s members from June 2013 to May 2018.

After his election, Mr Sharif thanked members of parliament for placing their trust in him and promised that he would ensure that the “accountability process is transparent”. He stressed the importance of improving the process of accountability.

He congratulated PPP leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, who was chairman of the previous PAC, for running the committee effectively.

PTI’s Aamir Dogar, who was present on the occasion, congratulated Mr Sharif on behalf of the government.

Mr Sharif is facing charges in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing scheme case and he is currently under judicial remand. His designated residence in Islamabad was declared as a sub-jail after the National Assembly speaker issued his production orders so that the PML-N president could attend the ongoing parliamentary session.