MQM holds key of Opposition Leader’s Office

Published June 1, 2013
The MQM’s support would be the deciding factor as to whether PTI chief Imran Khan will be given the slot of Opposition Leader. -File Photo
The MQM’s support would be the deciding factor as to whether PTI chief Imran Khan will be given the slot of Opposition Leader. -File Photo

ISLAMABAD: It’s going to be Altaf Bhai to decide who might possibly get the prized slot of the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (NA).

“We have not yet decided whether we would support the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or field our own candidate (for the office of NA opposition leader),” MQM leader Rashid Godil told Dawn.com.

After passage of the 18th amendment, the office of NA opposition leader became one of the most important political slots. The high profile appointments like of Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), caretaker Prime Minister, etc. could not be made without the consent of the opposition leader.

The opposition leader also nominates members (from the opposition benches) to a committee that is mandated to appoint Supreme Court judges.

The PPP has already nominated Syed Khurshid Shah to become the opposition leader. The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) along with Sheikh Rashid Ahmed is strongly pitching Imran Khan for the same slot.

Under Rule 39 of the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, anyone showing highest numerical strength on the opposition benches would be the opposition leader.

The procedure is that members sign a declaration pledging support to a specific candidate and submit that to the NA Speaker office.

Numerically speaking, the PPP has more or less 40 MNAs followed by the PTI having around 33 MNAs. The MQM managed to get 23 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

The opposition groups including Jamat-i-Islami (five seats), PML-Q (two seats) and Awami Muslim League (one seat) are most likely to support Imran Khan’s candidature.

In that scenario, there is going to be a neck-to-neck contest between the PPP and the PTI. And the MQM holds an important bargaining chip to take maximum benefit from the PPP, in Sindh province. The PPP would again form its government in the province, whereas the MQM already announced its decision to sit in the opposition.

“No one can stop Imran Khan to become the opposition leader, if MQM behaves,” commented AML president, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who has been lobbying for Imran Khan.

However, the MQM supporting Imran Khan’s candidature may be a far-fetched desire given the bad blood both parties drew in the run-up to the general elections.

Khan publically accused Altaf Hussain of murder of a PTI provincial leader, Zehra Shahid. He also urged upon the London Metropolitan police initiate investigation against the self-exiled leader. Meanwhile, the MQM unleashed a storm of criticism against the PTI and its leadership.

The PTI won one NA seat from Karachi beating the MQM candidate Khushbakht Shujaat. It also showed some support from other constituencies, normally considered strongholds of the MQM.

Analysts say the MQM may pacify Imran Khan by letting him become the opposition leader in exchange of his silence on touchy issues concerning the top MQM leadership.

Shahzad Raza is a freelance contributor. His twitter handle is @shahz79

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