Four things you should know about parliamentary committees

What is a parliamentary committee? In a democracy, the bulk of the legislative work takes place in committees, made up of 20 or fewer members of the parliament, from both the opposition and the ruling party. These committees exhaustively pour over the details of new proposed laws, government policies or even broader topics like economy and health, during which the members can also suggest amendments. They then submit a report to the parliament. According to the National Assembly’s Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business 2007, there should be a standing committee for each ministry of the government. All committees are required to be elected by the Assembly within 30 days, after the speaker is elected. How many committees should the parliament have? Besides Standing Committees, a house has Special and Select Committees to examine a specific law. Then there are Joint Committees, which comprise members from both houses - the Senate and the National Assembly. During a single tenure, there can be between 40-50 committees in the parliament, according to PILDAT. How many committees have been formed since the new government came to power? From August, when the new parliamentarians took oath, to date, only one has been appointed: Parliamentary Committee on the General Election, 2018. Headed by Pervez Khattak, the minster for defence, the committee is tasked to look into allegations of fraud and rigging during the general election. What is delaying the appointment of the other committees? One of the most important committees in the lower house is the Public Accounts Committee, which audits the budget of the previous and incoming government. As per rules of the parliament, it usually has 23 members, including the minister for finance. But as per tradition, its chairmanship is handed over to the leader of the opposition, who at the moment is Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-N. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been reluctant to let Sharif steer a committee that would examine the expenditures of his older brother, Nawaz Sharif’s tenure. Last week, the crisis was resolved when the foreign minister announced that the PTI has agreed to the demands of the opposition, and keeping to parliamentary norms, Sharif will be made the chairman of PAC.

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