It seems that the long-standing desire of the Senate is close to fulfillment.  After Finance Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar’s policy statement indicating the Prime Minister’s support, the Senate unanimously moved a motion; seeking amendments for giving representation to members of Upper House of Parliament in National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - the top parliamentary watchdog.

While there is still the small matter of the National Assembly approving these amendments, the mood in the upper house was euphoric. The move was hailed as “historic” while generous praise was heaped on Ishaq Dar and Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani – the two ostensible architects of the motion. With the Pakistan Muslim Leauge-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarians rarely deviating from party voting lines, the passage of the motion through the lower house seems guaranteed.

The merits of the inclusion – from the arguments of the senators – seem obvious. Greater representation of the provinces and federal units in the committee, more members increase the overall amount of scrutiny, and relative political freedom of senators from party lines promises effective accountability. However it must be remembered that these are the words of the senators themselves – and thus must be taken with a pinch of salt.

The authority to select members is held by the Senate Chairman, and he must take the proportional representation of parties into consideration. Realistically, we can expect the more dominant parties in Pakistan to increase their share in the crucial PAC.

The Senate has shown itself to be more capable of addressing controversial issues and passing legislation than the National Assembly, perhaps involving it in other governmental affairs is not a bad idea. Raza Rabanni even suggested that in the future senators could also be part of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Parliamentary Committee on Law.

Here we must show a little caution. Experienced senators may very well increase the efficiency of parliamentary committees, but we must be careful not to merge the distinct roles and identities of the two houses of Parliament. There is a reason most democracies have a upper house removed from the daily cut and thrust of politics – so that it can perform the functions of overview and debate objectively, or at least more objectively than the National Assembly.

Furthermore, our Senate is an empowered one already, if we continue giving it more power it may act as an impediment to the directly elected National Assembly – considering the different election cycles of both houses, this is a distinct possibility.

Inclusion into the PAC should not mean an automatic acceptance of increased Senate power – all decisions must be taken on a case to case basis.