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PPP, PML-N to take turns as PAC chief

29 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The government and opposition are likely to have their nominees as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) one by one for half term each of the National Assembly.

"Leader of opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, who has been unanimously chosen as the PAC chief as per the parliamentary traditions, will hold the slot for the first two and a half years of the National Assembly while a government nominee will become its chairman for the remaining half," an informed source told.

He said that the formula was akin to the pattern, which was followed during the tenure of the previous government. For the first half, the then leader of opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, served as the PAC chairman while Nadim Afzal Chan assumed the office for the remainder period.

The source said that this was an old agreement reached between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which was being strictly implemented. Like the previous regime, the present government was also in a comfortable position to get its representative picked up as the PAC chief, but it awarded the berth to the opposition leader.

"This formula apart, even otherwise it is a good precedent to have an opposition nominee as the PAC chairman to carry out accountability, which every government avoids," the source said.

However, contrary to Chaudhry Nisar's stay as the PAC chief when the accountability of the government dealings done during the years of the regime under Pervez Musharraf, Khursheed Shah will perform this task about the business of his own previous administration.

In end-2011, Chaudhry Nisar quit as the PAC chairman amid generous approbation of his role and services by the PPP MPs, who tried hard to convince him to continue but he did not change his mind. Under him, the PAC did extensive work and recovered Rs19.4 billion in its first year, Rs24.4b in the second year and Rs70b in the third year, which was a record in Pakistan's history.

At the time with the defanging of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the PAC was the only forum left for accountability of the government for its financial bungling, embezzlement and irregularities. It was the only parliamentary committee whose performance was hailed by the World Bank, Commonwealth, International Parliamentary Union and some other global organizations.

After a long delay of seven months, the most important parliamentary body will finally kick off its work by holding its preliminary meeting next week. It will take some time to start scrutiny and examination of the audit objections raised about different government departments in the reports of the Auditor General of Pakistan.

There is a strong possibility that the PAC meetings would be quite lively, vibrant and even noisy in view of the presence of a number of heavyweights belonging to different political parties, who hold deeply conflicting stands on almost all key issues. Some of them are equally diehard critics of both the PPP and PML-N. They attack the two for their alleged corruption.

Top PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi figures in the PAC. The darling of some TV channels, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, is also a member of it. Besides, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has two stalwarts including Shafqat Mehmood and Dr Arif Alvi. Above all is Mehmood Khan Achakzai, the chief of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP).

Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, sister of former President Asif Ali Zardari, who was earlier speculated to be head of the PAC, is also a member of the PAC. The PML-N gave preference to Khursheed Shah over her for the slot of the PAC chairperson.

Although the PML-N has accorded the chairmanship of the committee to the PPP leader, it has a large presence in it. It has eleven members in the 23-person body. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has two.

The PPP has three members while the Jamiat Ulemae Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-Q, PMAP, and Awami Muslim League have one member each.


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