The Senate is set to form a think tank called the Senate Forum for Policy Research. The forum will have the status of a standing committee of the senate and will “study questions of public importance” and “recommend policy options and solutions” and make it’s recommendations. In practice, the committee will also provide assistance to other standing committees as well as disseminating information generated during senate proceedings and committee reports. This initiative, taken by Chairman Senate Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari, is promising in theory, but like most things that come out of Pakistani politics; must be taken with a pinch of salt.

While the actual job of studying questions of public importance and recommending policy solutions lies with both houses of the parliament, it is evident that they are falling below required standards, assuming that they try; the parliament of Pakistan is usually busy mudslinging, scoring political points and staging dramatic walk-outs. When they get around to their job, they are hamstrung by the fact that due to time constraints, members of parliament only initiate new legislation and summarily debate it; the actual drafting is done by notoriously dysfunctional standing committees. In this scenario, a standing committee dedicated to forward-thinking policy solutions, that has the time, funds and mandate to debate these issues will be welcome indeed. Considering that it submits its reports once every fiscal year, it would be restricted to debating policy and not politics which so bogs down the parliament.

The only sticking point is its membership and selection mechanism. On one hand being comprised of eight sitting and eight former members of the senate, all to be selected by the Chairman Senate, gives it ability to call on expertise as well as a certain freedom to appoint members free of partisanship. On the other hand, the sole authority to select members raises eyebrows. Furthermore, the ability to appoint former senate members may be a tool to “reward” allies, who can happily relax and cash salaries from the Senate fund; looking at the state of the other parliamentary committees, this is a real possibility.