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Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani

ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani has finally summoned the opposition-requisitioned session of the upper house of parliament on July 23, but only to discuss the no-trust motion against him without any voting.

But in a significant development, to end the prevailing uncertainty on the issue, the government now plans a regular Senate session in around 10 days for voting on the resolution to remove Mr Sanjrani.

On the other hand, the opposition says it will insist on voting on its resolution in the session summoned by the chairman, alleging that a discussion without voting would be a violation of the rules.

The chairman has summoned the session on the last day of the 14-day period after the opposition submitted the requisition and also on the last day of the seven-day mandatory period after intimating the senators through a circular about receipt of no-trust motion against the chairman by the Senate Secretariat.

The opposition senators had submitted the no-trust motion against Mr Sanjrani to the Senate Secretariat on July 9. The ruling coalition hit back with a similar motion against Deputy Chairman of the Senate Saleem Mandviwala on July 12.

Talking to Dawn, Leader of House in the Senate Shibli Faraz said the government believed that the no-trust motion against the chairman could be taken up only in a regular sitting as a session could be requisitioned only to discuss an important national issue of public importance and on the basis of any recent occurring.

However, Mr Faraz said he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi and the government had decided to convene a regular session for voting on the no-trust resolutions against the chairman and the deputy chairman.

Mr Faraz said the decision to convene a regular session for voting had been made to end the uncertainty and to allow the Senate to play its role in enacting laws and discussing public issues. He accused the opposition parties of creating this uncertainty and “acrimony” by moving the no-trust motion against Mr Sanjrani.

When contacted, Parliamentary Leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Sherry Rehman expressed surprise over Mr Faraz’s suggestion that the members would only discuss the no-trust motion without a voting during the requisitioned session. She said under the rules, Mr Sanjrani could not even preside over the sittings after submission of the no-trust resolution against him.

Mr Faraz, however, said there was a possibility that Mr Sanjrani might not preside over the sitting and someone from the panel of presiding officers might chair the July 23 sitting, indicating that the government may not allow the deputy chairman to preside over the session as the treasury members have also submitted a no-confidence motion against him in a tit-for-tat move.

When told about the government plan to convene a regular session soon for voting purpose, Ms Rehman said a joint meeting of the opposition parties would be held on Monday (tomorrow) in which they would discuss the government’s move.

The opposition parties on Friday had rejected Mr Sanjrani’s claim that a no-confidence motion could not be taken up in a requisitioned session of the house and warned that any uncalled-for delay in convening of a session would be a clear violation of the constitution.

Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, National Party president and the opposition’s joint candidate for the Senate chairman’s office, had said a letter of response to Mr Sanjrani’s letter on the no-confidence resolution against him had been sent to him.

The opposition’s letter reportedly points out that paragraph (c) of Clause 7 of Article 53, Constitution, 1973, read with Article 61, Constitution, 1973, provides that a vote of no-confidence may be brought against the Senate chairman by giving not less than seven days’ notice and if passed by the votes of the majority of the total membership of the house, the office of the Senate chairman will stand vacated.

The letter asserts that the constitutional provision does not say that the resolution will be passed in a session summoned by the president or a special session held for this purpose.

It says Mr Sanjrani in his letter has admitted that the motion for leave and the resolution has been circulated in compliance with sub-rule (1) of Rule 12 of “the Rules, 2012”, therefore, the notice period provided under the constitution and reiterated in “the Rules, 2012” i.e. of seven days has started to run.

Therefore, the letter says, to give compliance to the constitutional provisions and “the Rules, 2012”, it is mandatory on the Senate secretary to place them on the orders of the day of the first session after the completion of seven-day notice period, be it a requisitioned session or a session summoned by the president.

It says, “It is highly inappropriate and in violation of the rules and the Constitution, 1973, that, you as the Chairman, Senate of Pakistan, should have written the letter under reply, as you cannot sit in your own cause”.

Earlier, after a grand meeting, the opposition had ruled out withdrawal of the no-trust motion against Mr Sanjrani and declared that the change was inevitable.

The meeting had been attended by at least 54 out of the 66 opposition senators — sufficient to remove the Senate chairman if they practically vote against him in secret ballot.

The opposition senators had already been told not to leave the country.

The opposition had made the decision to remove the Senate chairman at a multi-party conference held in Islamabad on June 26 to discuss the options of launching a full-fledged anti-government movement in the wake of present economic crisis and the alleged political victimisation of the opposition members.

Speaking at a news conference after submission of the no-trust motion, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had asked Mr Sanjrani to voluntarily resign in the larger interest of democracy and the Parliament.

He had said that Mr Sanjrani had been elected as a result of the opposition’s consensus that emerged last year when the PML-N was ruling party and PPP was sitting on opposition benches with the PTI, which was now in power. Now, he said, again the opposition had reached a consensus to remove the Senate chairman, adding that they had no personal issues with Mr Sanjrani and had respect for him.

On the other hand, Mr Sanjrani had declared that he would not step down and would fight till the end.

The opposition requires 53 votes in the 104-mmber house to get the no-trust resolution passed. Given the party position, the opposition should face no difficulty in getting Mr Sanjrani removed from the office as it enjoys the support of 67 members against 36 members on the treasury benches.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2019