ISLAMABAD: Days after their nominees for the offices of Senate chairman and deputy chairman won the election, the two opposition parties — Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — have started lobbying to muster support of other opposition members to get the office of the opposition leader in the 104-member upper house of parliament.

Both the PPP with its 21 senators and the PTI having 13 members in the house claim that they have been assured by other opposition parties, mainly the Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment (MQM) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), of their support.

While the PPP has formally nominated Sherry Rehman for the opposition leader’s office, the PTI is likely to announce its choice after a meeting of the party’s core committee on Friday though sources told Dawn that PTI senator Azam Swati wants to get himself nominated for the seat.

PTI’s information secretary Fawad Chaudhry said that the party would make a final decision in this regard after a meeting of its core committee on Friday.

PPP announces nomination of Sherry Rehman for the seat, PTI yet to decide name

The announcement of Ms Rehman’s nomination was made by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari through his official social media page on Twitter, expressing the hope that she would become the first woman to become opposition leader in the Senate.

“(The) PPP (is) ready to make history again. We nominate Senator Sherry Rehman for the position of Leader of Opposition. Insha Allah she will be the first woman to lead the opposition in the Senate,” tweeted Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

A PPP delegation comprising Ms Rehman, newly-elected Senate deputy chairman Saleem Mandvi­walla and opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah met the senators from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to get their support.

Sources in the opposition parties said the PPP had also been seeking PTI’s support for Ms Rehman as the former had the largest number of members on the opposition benches in the Senate. However, they said, the PTI had decided not to support Ms Rehman as the leadership believed that such a decision could damage the PTI’s reputation.

A PTI leader said the party had already been facing criticism from within the party as well as from outside for supporting the PPP’s candidate in the election of deputy chairman. Therefore, he said, the PTI would make every effort to get the opposition leader’s office.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Rehman said the party leadership had always supported women for important positions. “And the party culture is very pro-women because of Benazir Bhutto’s iconic life of public service.

“My predecessor, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan is an indomitable parliamentarian, so I have very big shoes to fill. I look forward to his continued guidance and support which he has always been very generous with,” she said.

As for keeping the opposition united, she said it was always better to amplify a common message of reform that Pakistan sorely needed. “As the largest party in the opposition, we do have a right and responsibility to stake a claim,” she said.

Under the Senate rules, the candidates for the opposition leader’s office are required to submit a application to the Senate chairman with the signatures of the members supporting their nominations.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2018

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