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Opposition leaders Akram Durrani, Ahsan Iqbal, Farhatullah Babar, Nayyer Bokhari, Mian Iftikhar and Owais Noorani at a press conference on Monday. —Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
Opposition leaders Akram Durrani, Ahsan Iqbal, Farhatullah Babar, Nayyer Bokhari, Mian Iftikhar and Owais Noorani at a press conference on Monday. —Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate flexed its political muscle on Monday and claimed the support of 62 members — far more than the 53 needed to remove Senate Chairman Mohammad Sadiq Sanjrani from his office.

“At the joint opposition meeting of the Senate, it was obvious that we have reached well over the 53 needed to remove the chairman. Today we saw a critical mass of 62, and tomorrow we will have even more as people are coming from abroad,” PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman told reporters after the meeting.

She said removal of the chairman was the writing on the wall. She said any hurdles created in the way now would be tantamount to violation of the Constitution.

Answering a question, she said two members of Jamaat-i-Islami might abstain from voting, but added that even then the opposition had sufficient numbers.

The joint opposition meeting of the Senate, chaired by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, took place a day before a requisitioned session of the Senate (Tuesday) that will only discuss the no-trust motion against the Senate chairman.

Numbers are expected to rise, claims PPP parliamentary leader in Senate Sherry Rehman

Sources in the opposition said the meeting was part of the exercise to keep numbers intact before the no-trust motion is taken up at a regular session of the house on Aug 1. Another meeting of the opposition senators will be held on Tuesday (today) prior to the session.

To chair or not to chair

Rule 12 (5) of the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Senate 2012 reads: “The Chairman or, as the case may be, the Deputy Chairman shall not preside over a sitting of the Senate in which a resolution for his removal from office is fixed for consideration.”

Sources in the Senate Secretariat, however, said Chairman Sanjrani would chair the session himself as no resolution would be moved in Tuesday’s session and only discussion on the motion would take place and there was no bar in the rules for the chairman to preside in such a situation.

But a source in the opposition said Rule 12 (11) made it abundantly clear that the Senate chairman’s argument that a no-trust motion could not be taken up at a requisitioned session had no basis.

The rule reads: “If the session during which notice has been given under sub-rule (1) has been convened by the chairman in pursuance of Article 61, read with clause (3) of Article 54 of the Constitution, the Senate shall not be prorogued until the motion has been disposed of or, if leave is granted, the resolution has been voted upon.”

He, however, said that since a regular session had already been convened by the president to meet on Aug 1, the opposition had decided not to insist on moving a resolution in Tuesday’s session. He said the discussion on no-trust motion would be brief.

The decision to remove Mr Sanjrani, made at a multi-party conference on June 26, comes following the arrest of the leadership of the two main opposition parties who are behind bars on corruption charges and the no-trust motion is a first step towards pressurising the PTI-led coalition government. Mr Sanjrani is the first-ever Senate chairman from Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2019