PML-N MPAs boycott standing committee meetings

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The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday boycotted the meetings of the Punjab Assembly’s standing committees.

PML-N MPAs said they would not attend the meetings of standing committees till the government fulfilled its commitment to name Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz as the Public Accounts Committee chairman.

Lawmakers were scheduled to elect the chairmen of three standing committees on Wednesday. However, PML-N MPAs boycotted the meetings of the standing committees. Therefore, the election of the chairmen could not be held due to a lack of quorum. Some MPAs from the government side were also absent from the meeting.

Each standing committee of the Punjab Assembly comprises 11 MPAs. Six of them are from the government, while five MPAs belong to opposition parties. As MPAs from the opposition boycotted the meetings, the government could not complete the required quorum because some of their own MPAs were also absent. There are 40 standing committees in the Punjab Assembly. The chairmanship of 21 committees will go to the government, while 19 committees will be headed by the opposition according to the rule of proportional representation. The chairmanship of most of the standing committees is lying vacant as the opposition is not cooperating with the government after the PTI refused to name Hamza Shehbaz as the PAC chairman.

It was earlier decided between the government and the opposition that Hamza Shehbaz would be appointed as the PAC chairman. However, now the government is reluctant to fulfill its promise as Hamza faces multiple cases, including assets beyond means, money laundering, Ramzan Sugar Mills and Saaf Pani Company. In the provincial assembly, the PAC chairman is considered a powerful person as he conducts audits of projects initiated by the government. Earlier, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) held the office for five years during the last government of PML-N in Punjab. Law Minister Raja Basharat had earlier also confirmed that the opposition leader would be appointed as the PAC chairman in Punjab. However, no official notification has been issued in this regard.

PML-N Punjab Information Secretary Azma Bukhari said that the party would continue its struggle and would keep on reminding the government to fulfill its promise of appointing Hamza Shehbaz as the PAC chairman.

“The government gave us its commitment in the past to name Hamza as the PAC chairman. However, then it backtracked on its promise. The office is still lying vacant,” she said. She added that all PML-N MPAs who were members of standing committees had submitted their resignations from the committees to the party leadership as a protest against the government’s refusal. “Imran Khan is running the affairs of the Punjab Assembly. Therefore, the issue is still unresolved,” she said.

Standing committees are the most important platforms in the parliamentary form of government where MPAs hold brainstorming sessions and discuss legislation and other legislative processes.