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July 22, 2019

Opposition decides to requisition House bodies’ sessions

Top Story

July 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties have decided to start requisitioning the standing committees of the National Assembly if Speaker Asad Qaisar did not change his mind about cancelling their sessions to avoid issuance of production orders for the detained MPs.

“Under the rules, the House committee chairman is bound to call the meeting of the concerned forum within 14 days of the receipt of a requisition,” former Speaker and prominent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq explained to The News. He said that the committees, which are considered the backbone of the parliamentary system, can’t be kept dysfunctional for a long time for any reason because they serve as excellent forums for accountability.

Ayaz Sadiq said that the opposition parties have the necessary strength in every parliamentary committee required for requisitioning them. In the case of a requisition, neither the speaker nor the minister concerned has any role in convening the committee, he said. Rule 225 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly says on a requisition made by not less than four members of a committee, its chairman shall call its meeting within 14 days from the date of such request.

However, if a requisition notice is received when the chairman is unable to call the meeting, it shall be submitted to the Speaker who may order to summon it.

The former speaker said that under the rules, the minister concerned is consulted about a routine meeting of the committee of which he is a member. But this condition was not required to be fulfilled in the case of a requisitioned meeting, he said adding that the minister’s presence in such discussions is not mandatory as the cabinet member can send his federal secretary or some other senior official of his department.

The PML-N leader said that holding of the meetings of the committees during the National Assembly sessions was tried and tested during his tenure as the speaker, and discarded as 40 to 50 MPs would absent themselves from the House proceedings, creating quorum problem, due to their preoccupations in the deliberations of such bodies. As a result, he said he banned this practice in the last two years of his tenure.

Ayaz Sadiq said that if the purpose of giving up the meetings of the committees was to save public money, it could be done by curtailing the days of such sessions held in cities other than Islamabad in the parliament building. He said as speaker he used to cut down such days which resulted in reducing expenditures.

The rules require that the production orders of incarcerated MPs will be issued by the chairmen of the committees of which they are members. The speaker has the power to order the production of such members for the National Assembly sessions.

After Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the speaker to dispense with the practice of issuing production orders of under-custody MPs, arrested on corruption and money laundering charges, Asad Qaisar cancelled the scheduled meetings of nearly two dozens of House committees.

Former President and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supremo Asif Ali Zardari, who has been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is a member of the House Committees on Commerce & Textile, and Water Resources. Their meetings were cancelled. Detained Mohsin Dawar of the Pukhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) figures in the committees on Cabinet Division and Narcotics Control. Their scheduled sessions were also called off.

However, the speaker let the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and its subcommittees and the House body on China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) to hold their meetings as per the schedule.

Apart from Zardari and Dawar, PML-N leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah and Khawaja Saad Rafique, and Ali Wazir of PTM are in jail. They are part of different House bodies.

Rana Sanaullah is a member of the parliamentary committee on appointment of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He could not attend its last meeting as neither his production order was issued nor did he seek it. He is also part of the dormant parliamentary committee on 2018 general elections.

The scheduled meetings of a number of House bodies were cancelled. They include the committees on Commerce & Textile, Privatisation, Inter-Provincial Coordination, Maritime, National Health Services, Regulations, Defence Production, Narcotics Control, Foreign Affairs, Overseas Pakistanis, Law and Justice, Religious Affairs, Government Assurances, Kashmir & Gilgit-Baltistan, Water Resources, and Communications.

However, at the same time, the Senate committees are holding their meetings as per the announced schedule. They include the committees on Defence Production, Petroleum, Postal Services, Railways, Power, Least Development Areas, Interior etc.

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