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January 27, 2019

PAC chairman has power to issue his own production order

National

January 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has the power under the rules to issue his own production order.

As the National Assembly session was abruptly prorogued without approval of the supplementary budget for which it had been called, Shahbaz Sharif's production order issued by Speaker Asad Qaisar became extinct. It is yet to be seen whether the PAC chief will issue his own production order. The government did not give any new date for summoning the session to pass the budget, which can't become effective without its passage in the National Assembly.

Rule 108 of the Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business in the National Assembly says the Speaker or Chairman of a committee may summon a member in custody on the charge of a non-bailable offence to attend a sitting or sittings of the legislature or meeting of a committee of which he is a member, if he considers his presence necessary.

On a production order, signed by the secretary or by any other officer authorised in this behalf, addressed to the provincial government where the member is held in custody, or to the authority concerned, the provincial government or such authority will cause the member in custody to be produced before the Sergeant-at-Arms, who will, after the conclusion of the sitting or the meeting, deliver the member into the custody of the provincial government or other authority concerned. It is clear from this rule that the Speaker has the discretion to issue or not issue the production order of an incarcerated MP. He had been ordering the production of Shahbaz Sharif but had delayed a similar direction for Khawaja Saad Rafique.

To a question, leading constitutional expert Wasim Sajjad explained to The News that in case the PAC chairman issues his own production order, the National Assembly “Secretary or by any other officer authorised in this behalf” (as noted in Rule 108) is required to notify the direction. “This is what the law says. In case, the secretary refuses to do so after being asked by his boss, the Speaker, a parliamentary row will emerge.”

However, he said that there was no precedent when a committee chairman had issued his own production order since the introduction of the rule.

Rule 103 says when a member is arrested on a criminal charge or for a criminal offence or is sentenced to imprisonment by a court of law or is detained under an executive order, the committing judge, magistrate or executive authority, as the case may be, will immediately intimate such fact to the Speaker indicating the reasons for the arrest, detention or conviction, as the case may be, as also the place of detention or imprisonment of the member.

According to Rule 104, when a member is arrested and after conviction released on bail pending an appeal or otherwise released, such fact will be intimated to the Speaker by the authority concerned.

Three questions were sent to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani by The News to get the official version: Why was the National Assembly session abruptly prorogued without approval of supplementary budget? It is claimed that the session was prorogued to do away with Shahbaz Sharif's production order. What do you say? When is National Assembly session being summoned again to pass budget? However, he did not respond.

It had been agreed in a pre-session meeting with the Speaker of the representatives of the government and opposition that Shahbaz Sharif will open the debate on the budget on Friday and the general discussion will continue for three days. This occasion did not arise and the session was prorogued.

The speeches of Shahbaz Sharif and other opposition representatives on the day of the presentation of the budget by the finance minister irked the government too much. This provoked Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs Naeemul Haq to post three attacking tweets.

He wrote: If Shahbaz wants to come to the National Assembly to abuse the prime minister and encourage his Chamchas [sidekicks] to do the same then he should know that the production order is not meant for this. He must make a commitment to abide by the decisions of the Ethics Committee and the Rules of Business.

Shahbaz better decide if he wants to play a positive role in the National Assembly and instruct his chamchas to behave. How dare he and his chamchas make personal attacks on the prime minister in the National Assembly? Does he want to spend more time in jail sulking? Does he want his production order to be revoked? Last chance. Pathetic behaviour by Shahbaz Sharif the illegitimate child of Zia's martial law and his corrupt chamchas in the National Assembly. The violation by opposition of the agreement reached before presentation of the Finance Bill by Asad is condemnable. Time to revoke Shahbaz' production order.

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