ISLAMABAD - While the Speaker National Assembly issued directive to hold meetings of the standing committees only during the sessions of the National Assembly, the major opposition parties termed it attack on parliament and encroachment in the limits of standing committees chairmen.

The Speaker National Assembly, for the first time in parliamentary history, has directed that the standing committees and sub-committees meetings shall only be held during the National Assembly sessions. All the scheduled standing committees, after the directive of the Speaker National Assembly, have been cancelled till the session of National Assembly.

Talking to The Nation, PML-N’s parliamentary leader Khwaja Muhammad Asif considered it an encroachment in the limits of standing committee chairmen. “We have respect for Speaker National Assembly orders and authorities but I personally think it was an encroachment,” he said, arguing that standing committees of National Assembly work independently without any influence.

“In my decades long parliamentary experience, I have never witnessed such directives...These bodies in its small form with the participation of multiple political parties members independently work on legislative business,” he said, considering the recent directive  not a good tradition. PPP-P, the second largest opposition party in the National Assembly, has even demanded the withdrawal of this decision and called it “tantamount to deviation from the Constitution”.

The issuance and non-issuance of ‘production order’ by the Speaker National Assembly and chairmen of standing committees is being regarded as much important aspect. The opposition, during last couple of months, for the empteenth time have raised voice for the issuance of production order of member under the custody in these days.

The speaker, according to the press release issued from National Assembly Secretariat, gave these directions in view of the ongoing austerity drive adopted by the National Assembly.

Currently, five MNAs including one former president Asif Ali Zardari are under the custody of law enforcement agencies. PPP Co Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, two senior PML-N’s lawmakers Khwaja Saad Rafique and Rana Sana Ullah and two members from North Waziristan Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir are under the custody. Two MNAs have attended the proceedings of national assembly and standing committee meeting on production orders.

The opposition members have time and again raised the voice in standing committee and National Assembly proceedings about issuance of production orders for members under the custody of law enforcement agencies. The members had recently raised voice for issuing production order of Rana Sanaullah and members from North Waziristan.

Following the directive of the Speaker National Assembly, the parliamentary experts viewed that the members under the custody could only able to attend the proceedings [of national assembly or standing committee] during the national assembly sessions. The members, currently under custody, could only attend session only after the approval of speaker NA to issue the production order. With the recent directives of the speaker, the production orders of PPP-P Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N’s senior MNA Khwaja Saad Rafique have also been deferred.

According to parliamentary rules and regulations, it is mandatory to meet minimum 130 days in one parliamentary year. The break between two sessions should also not be more than 120 days, says the rules and procedure. Interestingly, the federal cabinet has recently discussed amending the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in National Assembly. The cabinet members viewed that the members attending the proceedings were wrongly using the production orders.

On the order hands, the opposition has also submitted requisition in the national assembly secretariat requesting the speaker national assembly to immediately summon national assembly session. The speaker, according to the rules and procedures of the national assembly, has to summon the session within 14days of the requisition submitted in the national assembly secretariat.