Pakistani parliamentary standing committees enjoy far greater powers than their Indian counterpart bodies though Indian Committees have ten times greater number of staff to support their MPs. No public official, no matter how senior or mighty he may be, can think of defying summons by a parliamentary committee in India. Unlike the practice in Pakistan, Indian parliamentary committees scrutinize the demands for grants at the time of the budget. These were some of the parallels drawn between Pakistani and Indian parliamentary practices during a day-long parliamentary development short course delivered to Pakistani women chairs of parliamentary committees, staff associated with these committees and the research wings of National Assembly and Senate. G. C. Malhotra, who recently retired as the secretary general of the Indian Lok Sabha, was the key resource person at the course. Course participants evinced keen interest in the comparative study of the parliamentary rules and practices of the two countries by asking numerous questions pushing the session well beyond the scheduled closing time. ‘Indian parliament also faces frequent problems of quorum despite the fact the quorum requirement is 10 % of the total numbers in India compared to the requirement of 25 % members’ presence in Pakistan’, Malhotra informed the course participants in reply to a question. He also explained the differences in the budget processes of the two countries. He explained in his lecture that Indian parliamentary rules require a mandatory report from the secretaries of the ministries on the actions recommended by parliamentary committees. The concerned Minister has to report the status of implementation to the Lok Sabha Speaker every six months, he added. Pakistani executive branch is under no such obligation to report on the action taken by the ministries on recommendations of parliamentary committees, stated the Pakistani committee chairs.
Earlier, Talat Hussain, a well-known journalist and Director Current Affairs of Aaj TV Channel delivered a lecture on the significance of Media in the effective performance of parliamentary committees. He faced a number of questions on the quality and extent of media coverage of the parliamentary committee proceedings. ‘Take a proactive approach in disseminating information in the right form and to the right people’, was his advice to women chairs of parliamentary committees.
The course was organized by PILDAT – Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency with the help of UK Government’s Global Opportunities Fund. Raja Muhammad Amin, Secretary Senate, a number of Senate and National Assembly officials and Women Chairs of Parliamentary Committees attended the course organized at a local Hotel. Certificates of participation were distributed among the participants at the end of the course.