ISLAMABAD (News): Parliamentary committees play an important role in the parliamentary system. These committees make the process of accountability effective and transparent.
This process of accountability of the state organs gives the impression of supremacy of parliament over other institutions. Through the parliamentary committees, the administration is made accountable and investigation is carried out with regard to issues pertaining to public importance. That’s why experts term these committees as “parliament in action” and the entire house as “parliament for decoration”. In the past, the parliamentary committees could not perform well because of different reasons.
A review of the current history of parliament shows that the access of the media to parliamentary committees was nil before the dictatorial rule of Pervez Musharraf. The proceedings of the closed-door sessions were restricted to official statements and announcements.
It was in those days that on the pressure of the World Bank and other international organisations, the sessions of the Public Accounts Committee were opened for the media, followed by other parliamentary committees. Now meetings of almost all parliamentary committees are open, except defence and defence production, national security and foreign affairs. This has made media possible and easy to get access to parliament.
Now observers are speculating changes in the political scenario while the ruling coalition and opposition stand face to face. Both claim that the mandate of parliament is not being honoured. It is interesting that the rivals attach their every move to the protection of democracy.
Under these circumstances, the democracy-loving people do want to question the custodians of democracy on the performance of parliament, which is the mother of democracy. Let’s see the mirror. The mirror that always shows the true picture. What is the performance of the parliamentary committees?
Record reveals that currently 51 parliamentary committees of the National Assembly are functioning. With the transfer of certain ministries to the provinces after the 18th Constitutional Amendments, 12 committees were abolished. They included environment, labour and manpower, local bodies and rural development, social welfare and special education, sports, tourism, Zakat and Ushr, health, livestock and dairy development, minorities, population welfare and youth.
Of the functioning 39 parliamentary committees, 21 had shown dismal performance. Less than 10 meetings were held of 20 parliamentary committees in the whole year. These include communications, foreign affairs, housing, information and broadcasting, interior, ports and shipping, postal services, railways, religious affairs, defence production, economic affairs, industries and production, Kashmir affairs, anti-narcotics, planning and development, special initiatives, border and state affairs.
This fact should not be overlooked that the issues of foreign affairs and internal security had been the focal point of the public and parliament throughout the year. The US threats, drone attacks, strained relations between the ISI and CIA, cut in the US aid, affairs relating to Haqqani network, presence of Mulla Omer and Afghan Shura, the May 2 secret operation of the US troops in Abbottabad and killing of Osama bin Laden had left a deep impact on the history of the country. According to the Pildat report, the foreign affairs committee could not bring even a single issue for discussion.
The foreign affairs committee, headed by the President of ANP Asfandyar Wali, could hold just three sessions during July 1, 2010 and October 25, 2011. The Haj scandal resounded in the Supreme Court, the minister of Haj was sent to jail but only two sessions of the religious affairs committee were held. It shows that the Haj policy was also enforced, bypassing the concerned committee.
Not a single meeting of the interior committee was held during 2010, during which 2,580 persons were killed in incidents of terrorism in the country, the internal situation remained precarious, the Supreme Court took suo moto action over the worsening law and order situation in Karachi, banned militant wings of political parties, ordered to introduce legislation against extortionists and encroachers. Likewise, the deteriorating situation in Balochistan had been a matter of concern but the interior committee did not hold even a single session on this issue. Just six meetings were held in the whole year.
What are our national priorities for Pakistan, which is full of problems but the victim of economic decline? This can be guessed through the performance of the Standing Committee of Economic and Statistics.
According to record of the National Assembly, only one session of the committee was held on May 13, 2009. Same was the situation of the Anti-Narcotics Committee. Only one meeting of the concerned committee was held on October 23, 2008.
Likewise, no significant role was played by the parliamentary Committee on Water and Power against loadshedding and serious power crisis in the country. According to the record, five committees, investments, parliamentary affairs, economic affairs, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and anti-narcotics could not hold even a single session during 2011.