'Will not let puppet govt off the hook,' says Bilawal after opposition's move to oust Sanjrani thwarted

Updated August 01, 2019

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PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari, PML-N Shehbaz Sharif and National Party President Hasil Bizenjo address the media after a joint opposition meeting. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari, PML-N Shehbaz Sharif and National Party President Hasil Bizenjo address the media after a joint opposition meeting. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday vowed to take action against opposition senators who defied party policy and voted against a no-confidence motion that was moved by the opposition against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

"We will look into our party to see which of [our members] came under pressure or sold their conscience," a visibly angry Bilawal told reporters.

"Some petty senators stabbed their parties in the back, we will take them to task," he said.

The PPP chairperson was speaking to the media after a meeting with opposition leaders that was held hours after Sanjrani shockingly survived a no-confidence motion even though government senators did not have a majority. Mere hours before the final result, the resolution to move a no-confidence vote against Sanjrani had been passed comfortably by opposition senators, with 64 voting in its favour.

Needing only 53 of the 64 senators' votes to send Sanjrani packing, the opposition instead fell three short when the results of the secret ballot were announced.

Bilawal, in his press talk, was flanked by PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, Ahsan Iqbal, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq among others.

He said that though its no-confidence motion had been thwarted in the Senate, the joint opposition will "not let the puppet government off the hook".

"They (government) should not think that we, the joint opposition will let them off the hook ... We are calling an All Parties Conference, we will fight this battle in the Senate, we will introduce reforms to ensure transparent Senate elections, we will look at the Rules and we will oppose this Senate chairman," Bilawal said.

"If this puppet government thinks it can establish its rule by rigging and stealing, that would not be the case."

He further said that the opposition had "won even in defeat because we exposed these puppet senators and Senate chairman".

Bilawal also lauded Senator Hasil Bizenjo — who had been named by the joint opposition as a candidate for Senate chairman's position — for "fighting the way he did".

PML-N President Sharif also addressed the press and said that the joint opposition will work to "identify those who sold their conscience". He said that the opposition will lay out a roadmap after an all-party conference.

It is pertinent to mention that PPP was one of the major supporters of Sanjrani's election as Senate chairman during the upper house's polls that were held last year. Many observers credited PPP co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari for playing a role in Sanjrani's victory.

PPP senators hand in resignations

Following the arguably unexpected outcome, all 21 of the PPP senators submitted their resignations to the party chairman.

When asked to comment on the development, Bilawal said: "My party is an idealogical party, one that has principles, and which has struggled for democracy. As a matter of principle, all 21 of my senators have submitted their resignations to me, as party chairman."

He said that other parties, like the PPP, will also investigate how such an upset in the no-confidence vote occurred.

"How was it that the vote of 14 senators from the time of the standing up vote to the secret ballot was forcibly changed?"

He said that a video had turned viral on social media in which he claimed the presiding officer of the election who was charged with counting the votes can be seen saying "54 votes for this resolution" which would have meant that Sanjrani's time as Senate chairman had come to an end.

Bilawal alleged that just like the general elections results "in which the results that were announced were markedly different from the ballot papers cast and some were rejected and it all remains unclear to this day", this time too, rigging had taken place under the guise of "rejected votes".

He said it was a sad day for the federation, the Senate, and for democracy. "But as the chairman of the PPP, I have not lost hope. I will continue to struggle and the way we unmasked the government, we stand victorious despite our defeat."

Later on, in a response video, Barrister Saif Ali — the presiding officer in question whom Bilawal had referred to — said that it was preposterous the way a certain segment of his remarks were being taken out of context.

He said that the statement was "possibly when he had asked the polling agents if there are, in fact, 54 votes in total or those that are in favour" to which he said their responses in which they are stating that some are rejected can also be heard.

Ali said that the entire record was available for review and invited the opposition to submit an application and go through the video themselves and put to rest such notions.