Asking a government to keep a check on its own power seems like an impractical arrangement at first glance – after all can we truly trust the government to prosecute themselves without bias or favour? Yet, in countless government functions this is exactly what has to be done. Usually this conflict of interest is resolved by dividing the role of the “watchman” across the political spectrum, with the opposition being given many key posts so that the functioning of the government is not only fair but is demonstrably, visibly fair. This is a tradition common to democracies around the world, and ours has similar conventions,

So far the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is set to receive the chairmanship of nine committees of the National Assembly under an agreement with the government. However, when it comes to the most important watchman, the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – the body that keeps an eye on the purse strings of the government and is responsible for auditing previous projects – the government is dithering, According to the government, since the PAC will be auditing several projects undertaken by the previous government, “appointing a PML-N man as the PAC chairman will be like asking the fox to guard the hen house.”

At first glance this makes sense; the concern is valid and reasonable. However, upon closer inspection the logic of this moves starts to unravel.

By refusing the Leader of the Opposition this position breaks with decades of parliamentary convention, which despite all manner of permutations in government has remained standing. Substituting the PAC chairman with man from the government, or someone else who is more attuned to the government’s way of looking at things, will directly undermine the role of the position. This creates further contradictions; the government cannot allow the PML-N to audit its own projects but would be okay if its handpicked allies can audit their own?

Seeking to preserve the independence of the PAC by installing a favourable chairman in a contradiction in terms; the government should reconsider.