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NA speaker seeks opposition’s help in formation of committees

ISLAMABAD: A day after meeting the minister for parliamentary affairs, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar on Friday sought the opposition’s cooperation in formation of much-awaited standing committees and smooth running of the house’s business.

The speaker met leaders of two main opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — and assured them that standing committees would be formed during the coming session of the National Assembly commencing from Monday.

Meanwhile, the PML-N demanded issuance of production orders for Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and another party leader, Khawaja Saad Rafique, as both of them are under detention while facing corruption cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau.

The speaker also sought the opposition’s support for constituting a high-powered committee for strengthening parliament.

Qaisar holds separate meetings with PPP, PML-N leaders

In the morning, PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah called on the speaker at his residence, while PML-N legislators Marriyum Aurangzeb and Rana Sanaullah met him in his chamber in the evening.

The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament as the National Assembly, which came into existence in August after the general elections held in July, is functioning with only two recently formed committees, including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Under the rules, the speaker is bound to constitute all standing and functional committees of the house within 30 days after the election of the leader of the house (prime minister). Since PTI chairman Imran Khan was elected prime minister on Aug 18 last year, the speaker had time till Sept 17 for the formation of the committees.

According to National Assembly Secretariat, the speaker and Khursheed Shah discussed formation of standing committees, legislation and matters regarding other parliamentary affairs.

Seeking the opposition’s cooperation, Speaker Qaisar said it was a joint responsibility of both the government and the opposition to make environment of the National Assembly favorable and maintain its dignity. “We have to uphold parliamentary norms, mutual respect and tolerance for each other for smooth functioning of parliament,” he added.

He said criticism was the right of the opposition but it should be productive and not for the sake of criticising opponents. The speaker stressed the need for joint efforts to overcome the challenges confronting to the country. “The opposition has to play a positive role in resolving national issues through parliament,” he emphasised.

Mr Qaisar lauded the role of the opposition in making environment of the house more friendly and peaceful.

Talking about the formation of standing committees, he said parliamentary committees were an important organ of parliament and without their formation enactment of laws was not possible.

“Formation of parliamentary committees is my foremost priority and I am in contact with members of treasury and opposition benches to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” he added.

“The issue of formation of parliamentary committees would be resolved through mutual consensus in the upcoming session of the National Assembly,” he assured, adding: “Law making is the prime responsibility of parliament and through effective legislation we can solve public issues and increase the dignity of parliament.”

Emphasising the need for presence of members in the house, the speaker said: “Presence of members in parliament reflects their seriousness in the proceedings of the house.”

Khursheed Shah appreciated “balanced” role of the speaker in running the house and assured him of full support of his party in the formation of standing committees. He also appreciated the speaker for resolving the issue of the chairmanship of the PAC and making efforts for formation of standing committees and expressed the hope that the task would soon be accomplished with consensus. He stressed the need for cooperation between the government and the opposition for smooth legislation.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan conceded the chairmanship of the all-powerful PAC to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif to end a nearly four-month impasse between the government and the opposition over the issue that had forced the speaker to stop the process of formation of the committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott these bodies if the ruling party did not offer the office to Mr Sharif as per “parliamentary traditions”.

Sources said that an understanding between the government and the opposition had already been reached on the distribution of the chairmanship of 38 standing committees. Under the agreed formula, the chairmanship of 18 committees would go to the opposition while the remaining 20 committees would be headed by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies.

However, they said, the two sides were yet to discuss the committees to be distributed among the treasury and opposition members.

The opposition parties, the sources said, wanted to head important committees like those on interior, foreign affairs, power and finance.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan on Thursday called on the speaker and stressed the need for early formation of standing committees and the matters pertaining to the agenda of the coming session of the National Assembly, according to an official announcement by the NA Secretariat.

During meeting with the PML-N leaders, the speaker assured them that the remaining 36 standing committees of the lower house would be formed during the coming session.

Talking to Dawn, Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the speaker also assured them that he would issue production orders for Shahbaz Sharif and Saad Rafique before beginning of the next session. She said the speaker was also making efforts for formation of a high-powered committee for strengthening parliament and he also sought the opposition’s support in this regard.

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