ISLAMABAD: A new controversy about the upcoming session of the upper house of parliament has cropped up, with the government giving clear indication that there would not be voting on a no-confidence motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani when the house meets on Aug 1.
“The house has been summoned to meet on August 1, and then there will be seven days [for voting],” Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati told a press conference here on Monday.
The remarks evoked a strong reaction from the opposition which has been accusing the government and the Senate secretariat of using delaying tactics.
PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the rules were very clear and the notice period had started the day the notice for a motion for leave to move a resolution under Article 61 of the Constitution read with Article 53 (7) C for the removal of the Senate chairman had been circulated among the members of the house.
Sub-rule 3 of Rule 12 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012, says: “The motion for leave to move the resolution shall be entered in the names of the members concerned in the Orders of the Day for the first working day after the expiry of seven days from the date of the receipt of the notice under sub-rule (1).”
President Alvi nominates Barrister Saif of MQM to preside over Senate session
Rule 12(9) reads: “The Senate shall not be adjourned until the motion for leave is disposed of or, if leave is granted, the resolution has been voted upon.”
According to the opposition, the seven-day period was completed on July 23 when a brief requisitioned session was held but was adjourned without transacting any business as the opposition refused to take part in the discussion on the no-trust motion under Rule 218 placed on the agenda by the Senate secretariat.
The opposition did not raise the issue of not allowing it to move the motion for leave to move a no-trust resolution in the requisitioned session in the hope that it will happen on Aug 1 anyway as the government was saying that no-trust motion against the Senate chairman cannot be moved in a requisitioned session.
In a related development, President Dr Arif Alvi has nominated Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement as presiding officer for the session commencing on Aug 1, sources told Dawn. This implies that he has rejected all the three names proposed by the Senate secretariat last week for presiding over the session.
The Senate secretariat had proposed the names of Waleed Iqbal of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Yaqoob Khan Nasar and retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum.
Sub-rule 5 of Rule 12 says: “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.”
During his press conference, Azam Swati expressed the hope that the no-trust motion against the Senate chairman will fail. He said a majority of 103 members of the Senate wanted to see Sadiq Sanjrani to continue as chairman.
He said the members would vote in favour of Mr Sanjrani because of his good character and conduct. “Sanjrani is facing no corruption or misconduct charges.”
He said although the opposition had a majority in the house, lawmakers in a good number would draw a comparison between Mr Sanjrani and joint opposition’s candidate Hasil Bizenjo. “And they will vote for Sanjrani on the call of their conscience.”
Mr Swati said that this had happened in the past and he as a senator of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) had not voted for the presidential candidate of Pakistan Peoples Party, Asif Ali Zardari, ignoring his party’s direction.
The minister said that he would contact all the parties to seek vote for Mr Sanjrani as it was a parliamentary tradition. He said his party’s decision to contact JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for withdrawal of the no-trust motion was not wrong.
He requested the opposition to withdraw the motion otherwise it will open a new Pandora’s Box and after every six months, the house will be witnessing such motions.
Mr Swati said that the no-trust motion was a big test for the Senate as the upper house of parliament was different from the National Assembly. “The Senate represents the federating units on equality. The atmosphere of house is different from the NA,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2019