ISLAMABAD - In a landmark development, the Senate yesterday amended its rules of business to give representation to the members of the Upper House in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq moved a motion seeking amendment in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the House, 2012 after Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar announced that Prime Minister Nawaz had agreed to give representation to the Senate in PAC.

The decision, being seen as a first step towards the empowerment of the Senate, was applauded by all the lawmakers as earlier the idea was facing strong resistance from the National Assembly Secretariat.

Giving Senate powers on money matters of the government was a long-standing demand of senators who demanded that either they should be included in the existing top parliamentary oversight body on financial matters of the government or the Senate should have a PAC of its own.

The Senate inserted a new rule - 172 (F) - in its rules to give effect to the changes which will be finalised once corresponding amendments would be passed by National Assembly in its rules in the coming session, starting from August 1.

As per the government decision, announced by Ishaq Dar, “The Senate shall elect six members for the PAC, one from each province, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), out of which three shall be from the treasury benches and three from the opposition benches.”

In his policy statement, the finance minister stated the six members may be included in a way that all areas/regions get representation. “Chairman Senate may select the six members in consultation with parliamentary leaders, keeping in view the proportionate strength of political parties in the house,” he suggested. He further proposed that rules of business of the Senate as well as the National Assembly should be amended to reflect the new arrangement.

Dar recalled that the proposal for representation of Senate in PAC had been under debate since last year, adding the present government had decided to honour the proposal. Dar praised himself and the Chairman Raza Rabbani in this regard.

Raja Zafarul Haq said a complicated and a long-standing demand of senators was finally fulfilled without any ‘battle’ and it would help in bringing both the houses closer.

Raza Rabbani remarked that the gigantic task of giving representation to Senate in PAC was resolved due to the historic document of charter of democracy (CoD) signed by PPP and PML-N which laid down the foundation for devolution of power.

The main point of CoD was to resolve the issues through dialogue, which is maintained today in shape of inclusion of Senate in PAC with consensus,” he said.

Senator Col (r) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi termed it a landmark move, which, he said, could not have been possible without a chairman like Raza Rabbani, and an “active and outstanding senator” like Ishaq Dar.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed called the day as ‘red-letter’ day for Senate of Pakistan saying the house achieved a milestone under the leadership of Rabbani along with fellow Senator Ishaq Dar.

“Senate could not play a meaningful role for long as a true elected represented body of the people, and today you’ve transformed it into a vibrant and a meaningful house,” he added.

Senator Usman Khan Kakar of PkMAP said the incumbent chairman got changed the house from a debating club to real upper house of parliament.

Chairman Rabbani called upon the law minister to work on a similar pattern to include senators in Special Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Parliamentary Committee on Law.

On March 15, 2015, the then Senate chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari had written to the prime minister for constitution of joint parliamentary committees, including the Public Accounts Committee.

On July 18, 2016, the House Business Advisory Committee approved the draft amendment in the Senate rules for constitution of its own PAC. However, it was decided that the decision should be kept pending till the return of PM from abroad. It was decided that if the PM did not approve the inclusion of senators in the PAC of National Assembly, the house would form its own committee.

CPEC MoU shared with Senators

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal yesterday handed over a copy of the memorandum of understanding with China on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Senate chairman.

He, however, was of the view that this was a bilateral document and its wider circulation should be avoided.

Ahsan Iqbal told senators that the documents regarding CPEC could not be made public for its being a matter between the two countries. The chairman therefore told the members that they could examine the document in his chamber.

The minister told the House that he was a signatory on the documents from Pakistan side and the MoU defined a framework for the project. He said a high-powered committee had been formed as a steering mechanism and joint working groups would be formed to examine various proposals. He said any agreement to be signed between the two countries would be tabled for approval.