MQM holds key to race for opposition leader

05 Jun 2013


A view of the National Assembly.—File Photo
A view of the National Assembly.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Soon after the general elections in which the PML-N emerged as the largest party and secured a simple majority in the National Assembly, it became almost certain that the party chief, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will be the next prime minister.

However, who will hold the charge on other side of the aisle on opposition benches, remains unclear, though the PPP leads the numbers game at the moment.

As of Tuesday, according to the official website of the National Assembly, the PPP carries a clear majority on the opposition benches with 39 votes, followed by the PTI’s 29 seats and the MQM’s 23.

Although the PTI, with the support of Jamaat-i-Islami’s four seats, PML-Q’s two, one each of the Awami Muslim League (AML), All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and some independents, can catch up with the PPP, the MQM’s 23 members of the National Assembly will actually determine which party will head the opposition benches.

Talking to Dawn, a leader of the MQM said both the PPP and PTI had sought the party’s support for slot of the leader of the opposition. The MQM leader said the party had yet to take a decision on the matter.

He said: “Since the MQM has decided to sit on opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly against the PPP, the two can’t join hands on opposition benches in the National Assembly.”

On the other hand, if the MQM and PTI resolve their differences, they can put up a joint candidate for the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, he added.

The Peoples Party has given an open offer to the MQM to become part of the provincial government in Sindh. In that case, the PPP, with the Muttahida’s support, can take charge of opposition in the National Assembly.

There is a third possibility: if the MQM joins the PML-N on treasury benches at the centre or decides to contest for the leadership of treasury benches, eight members of the National Assembly who have opted to remain as independents will determine who becomes leader of the house.

At the moment, however, the election for the leader of the opposition seems quite open, with the PPP having clear advantage over the PTI and MQM.

Talking to Dawn, former information secretary of the PTI and sitting member of the National Assembly, Shafqat Mehmood, said the party wasn’t making any serious effort to secure majority on opposition benches. He said it was immaterial for the party as the nation knew that the “real opposition” in the National Assembly would be represented by Imran Khan.

According to rule number 39 of the rules of procedure and conduct of business of the National Assembly, soon after election of the prime minister which is due on Wednesday (today), the speaker can announce a date, time and place for submission of the name for the leader of opposition.

Any member sitting on opposition benches having the support of majority of members can become leader of the opposition, for which, he/she is supposed to get their signatures in his/her support. After verification of the signatures, the speaker declares the name of the leader of the opposition.

Newly elected speaker of the National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq, on Tuesday said whichever party would command majority on the opposition benches, would be given the charge of the opposition without any delay.

Meanwhile, the leader of the house in the Senate, Senator Farooq Naek and leader of the opposition, Senator Ishaq Dar, resigned from their positions on Tuesday.