Senate manoeuvrings

July 14, 2019


IN an apparent effort to thwart the opposition’s plans for the removal of Sadiq Sanjrani as Senate chairman, the PTI has decided to file a no-confidence motion against the PPP-backed deputy Senate chairman Saleem Mandviwalla. The ruling party’s decision comes just days after the opposition asked Mr Sanjrani to resign and weeks ahead of a vote in the upper house to determine his fate. Unsurprisingly, the PTI is displeased with the opposition’s attempts to remove the chairman, with the Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz declaring that Mr Sanjrani is running the house impartially. Mr Faraz criticised the opposition’s move as a “violation of the concept of continuity” and a bid to force the government to “soften accountability”.

Although the PTI is well within its constitutional rights in demanding a counter no-confidence vote, its justification that such an effort violates continuity is ironic given its own role in last year’s election for Senate chair, when the PPP and PTI joined forces to instal Mr Sanjrani — a little-known candidate — as chairman. The PTI’s stance today that a similar attempt by the opposition to oust the chairman is a violation is incongruous with its past position. It appears that the ruling party is going all out to exert pressure on the opposition and broker some sort of a deal to resolve the chairman issue. The PTI is already in talks with disgruntled lawmakers from the opposition ranks who have privately expressed their displeasure over the lack of communication of their parties. Mr Faraz has even boasted that in 2015, the PTI had only five senators but managed to secure nearly four times the number of votes. With all parties actively testing the waters through back-channel conversations, the fate of the upcoming election depends largely on how successfully the treasury and opposition build alliances in the next two weeks. With a secret ballot and a history of loyalties which shift overnight after much wheeling and dealing, the outcome of the vote remains unpredictable.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019