ISLAMABAD: The much-awaited session of the Senate during which opposition parties will try to oust through a no-confidence motion its chairman, who is supported by the government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), will take place on Thursday (today).

While the opposition was confident on Wednesday that the present incumbent, Sadiq Sanjrani, was on the way out because it enjoyed the support of required number of senators, the government was claiming the move would fail as many opposition senators would vote for Mr Sanjrani “in line with their conscience”.

However, a senator from one of the opposition parties mocked the government’s claim and said: “If they are so confident, why have they not named a candidate for the office of deputy chairman?”

Read: Move against Senate chairman bound to fail: PTI

Because the upper house of parliament is to take up the first-ever no-confidence motions against its chairman and deputy chairman (Saleem Mandviwala), both of them cannot chair the session under the rules; that’s why President Dr Arif Alvi has nominated Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to chair the session.

Wednesday was a day of hectic political activity, with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari hosting a meal for the opposition senators. The function provided the opposition parties an opportunity to fine-tune their strategy for the all-important Senate session.

More than 50 senators from the PPP, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Awami National Party, besides members from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas were in attendance.

Bilawal, Bizenjo advise Sanjrani to resign

In addition to Mr Bhutto-Zardari, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and the opposition’s joint candidate for the office of Senate chairman, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, also addressed the event.

Talking to reporters after the event, the PPP chairman said Mr Sanjrani still had time to resign voluntarily. “It will be good if he resigns now; otherwise he is going to go anyway.”

Speaking to the journalists, Mr Bizenjo said he “won the seat the day my name was put forward” for the post. He claimed enjoying the support of 65 senators and advised Mr Sanjrani to resign voluntarily. “This will be better for him as well as for us.”

Read: Opposition's Rehbar Committee announces Mir Hasil Bizenjo as candidate for Senate chairman

Khursheed Shah of the PPP urged the government to “stay away from horse-trading... which has stopped the country from making progress”.

The coordination committee of the PML-N senators also met here with PML-N president Mian Shahbaz Sharif in the chair.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Sharif expressed the hope that “democracy and the Constitution would win during the Senate session”.

He said the opposition parties had a clear majority in the house and warned the government against adopting an “undemocratic and unconstitutional attitude” during the proceedings of the house.

Later, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Mr Sharif at his Islamabad residence and the two leaders discussed the upcoming Senate session. They also discussed the opposition’s course of action for the future.

Mr Bizenjo hosted a dinner for the opposition senators as part of efforts to keep their numbers intact. This function was also attended by PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz on special invitation. The dinner was also attended by leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, PPP chairman, JUI-F chief, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Nawaz said the “time for floor crossing and ditching political parties was over and the mindset that goes for nefarious moves to break parties would suffer a defeat” on Thursday.

Speaking to the opposition senators, Mr Bizenjo said: “The prestige of your leadership and your party is at stake... A vote against the consensus decision of the opposition would be a no-confidence against the leadership.”

According to sources, the last in the series of events organised by the opposition would be a brunch to be hosted by leader of the opposition in the National Assembly (Shahbaz Sharif) for opposition senators hours before the Senate session.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressing guests at a lunch hosted for opposition senators.—Online
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressing guests at a lunch hosted for opposition senators.—Online

Meanwhile, the Senate secretariat placed the July 22 notification about summoning of the session on August 1 as an ‘order of the day’ on its website instead of giving a proper agenda under the rules. The mistake was however rectified late in the night.

The secretariat also sent a message to all the members detailing the procedure for voting under Rule 12(10) of the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Senate, 2012.

They have been informed that the members would move motions seeking leave to move resolutions for removal of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, and if leave is granted the resolutions will be voted upon.

It says that voting on the resolution(s) shall be secret and each member will have one vote only.

The members will not be allowed to carry mobile phones and cameras inside the polling booth. Disclosing the ballot paper or taking its photograph is strictly prohibited.

Rule 12(9) says 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.

Rule 12(12) reads: “The Chairman or, as the case may be, Deputy Chairman, shall stand removed from his office on the resolution being passed by a majority of the total membership of the Senate.”

A total of 53 votes is required to remove the chairman and deputy chairman from their offices. The opposition has a total of 67 members, one of whom (Ishaq Dar) has still not taken oath. Out of the remaining 66 senators, two belong to Jamaat-i-Islami, which has decided to abstain from the proceedings.  

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2019