PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks at a press conference outside the Parliament House after the defeat of opposition’s no-confidence resolution against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Thursday. Opposition leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Hasil Bizenjo, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Sherry Rehman, Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb, dejection writ large on their faces, are also seen.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks at a press conference outside the Parliament House after the defeat of opposition’s no-confidence resolution against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Thursday. Opposition leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Hasil Bizenjo, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Sherry Rehman, Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb, dejection writ large on their faces, are also seen.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

• Move against Mandviwala also fails as most opposition senators abstain from voting
• Shahbaz, Bilawal vow to identify those who stabbed their parties in the back
• Shibli says opposition members voted for Senate chairman on call of conscience

ISLAMABAD: Senate Chair­man Sadiq Sanjrani survived a crucial no-trust vote on Thursday with as many as 14 members of the opposition parties ditching the party leadership by either voting against their own resolution or deliberately wasting their votes.

The Senate met to take up no-trust motions against Mr San­jrani and Deputy Chairman of the Senate Saleem Mand­viwala, with Barrister Moham­mad Ali Saif of the MQM in the chair.

As many as 64 members of the opposition rose in their seats to approve the motion seeking permission to move the no-trust motion against Mr Sanjrani submitted by leader of the opposition in the house Raja Zafarul Haq.

However, when it came to secret balloting, only 50 of the opposition senators voted in favour of the resolution. Five votes were declared void which, according to sources, had been wrongly stamped on purpose. The sources said four of these bore stamp in both boxes — one in favour of and the other against the resolution. It was even then a close call as the opposition merely fell short of three votes to send Mr Sanjrani packing.

In all 100 out of the 103 members attended the session and cast their votes. Chaudhry Tanvir of PML-N, accused of holding 600,000 kanals of land in the name of his servants, was among the three absentees, who included Sirajul Haq and Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Islami, which had already announced its decision to abstain.

Three members somehow spoilt their ballot papers and were issued new ballot papers. They included Mr Sanjrani, Atiq Ahmad Sheikh of the MQM and Najma Hameed of the PML-N.

Nauman Wazir of the PTI and Javed Abbasi of the PML-N had been appointed polling agents and shown empty ballot box before the voting started. The Senate secretary kept on calling out names of the senators in alphabetic order for obtaining ballot papers before proceeding to the polling booth. Barrister Saif, who was nominated as the presiding officer by President Dr Arif Alvi, also cast his vote.

Jubilant members from the treasury benches raised slogans and hugged and congratulated their colleagues after the chair announced rejection of the resolution for want of required numbers. The presiding officer asked them to maintain decorum and celebrate after going out of the house.

Later, leader of the house in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz moved the motion seeking permission to move a no-confidence resolution against Deputy Chairman Mandviwala. The motion was carried as 34 members voted in its favour by rising in their seats. In a strategic move, the opposition decided to stay away from voting. As many as 32 votes were polled in favour of the resolution which was thus rejected. Five members from the opposition however cast their votes. They were: Mr Mandviwala, Rubina Khalid, Mohammad Ali Shah Jamote and Quratul Ain Marri (PPP) and Professor Sajid Mir (PML-N). The house was prorogued sine die.

Opposition’s reaction

After the upset, the opposition leaders vowed to expose the elements responsible for the failure. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari held a meeting in the former’s chamber. The meeting, also attended by other leaders, discussed what had gone wrong and how to proceed further.

Later talking to reporters, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said action would be taken against the opposition senators who had defied the party policy and frustrated the move taken after a consensus decision.

“We will look into our party to see which of [our members] came under pressure or sold their conscience. Some petty senators stabbed their parties in the back, we will take them to task,” he remarked.

He said though its no-confidence motion had been thwarted in the Senate, the joint opposition would “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,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

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

He said the opposition had “won even in defeat because we have exposed these puppet senators and Senate chairman”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said all the 21 PPP senators had submitted their resignations to him on moral grounds.

Shahbaz Sharif said the joint opposition would work to identify those who had sold their conscience and expose them. He said these individuals had weakened democracy and parliamentary system.

He said a multi-party conference would be convened next week. He said the options which came forth during consultations would be discussed in the conference and then future course of action would be announced.

“The opposition has decided to raise voice against horse-trading in every session of the Senate,” he remarked.

Govt reaction

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan presents a bouquet to Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Thursday.—INP
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan presents a bouquet to Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Thursday.—INP

Shibli Faraz, talking to reporters after the session, rejected the allegations of horse-trading and said the members from the opposition had voted in accordance with their conscience and to preserve the dignity of the house.

He said the opposition’s move against Mr Sanjrani was aimed at avoiding accountability, but the anti-corruption drive would not only continue but intensify in the days ahead.

He said what happened today would help stabilise democracy. He said JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman had used major political parties during all this brouhaha.

“The opposition’s movement has failed. We had said [this would happen] since day one and we met the leaders of the opposition and explained to them that what they are setting out to do is against the prestige of this institution and its stability and is destroying its spirit,” Mr Faraz said.

“We went to Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s house as part of our cultural tradition of visiting other people’s houses to discuss matters. He gave a statement which made it seem we had come to seek his help,” Mr Faraz said. “He hasn’t even been able to help his own self,” he added.

“Despite having no political leverage, he [Maulana Fazl] used this no-confidence motion for his own politics and I regret that major political parties were used,” Mr Faraz said.

Meanwhile, the government’s spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan regretted the behaviour demonstrated by the opposition when they walked out during the no-confidence vote against Senate Deputy Chairman Mandviwala.

“We completed a democratic process with the counting having taken place before the cameras... Senators voted according to their conscience and through a secret ballot rendered the no-trust notion against Senate chairman unsuccessful.

“As soon the process for the next movement began, the ‘champions of democracy’, tainted it with an ugly stain and instead of letting the voting process continue and granting senators their fundamental right of voting, the opposition again exposed its true face in front of the people,” Dr Awan said.

“Victory and defeat is part of the beauty of democracy, but throwing a spanner in the works, the way they sabotaged the process and abstained from participating with only five voters coming in to vote shows us the opposition’s foolishness.

“They have already weakened the institution with their foolish behaviour and attempted to bring about an outcome of their own accord. They boycotted the movement knowing full well they will be sorely defeated,” she said.

She asked why the opposition did not “face the vote” and raised the question that if a vote could take place on one no-trust motion and the government did not stop it, then why when voting was taking place against their own deputy chairman the opposition demonstrated such cowardly behaviour.

“This proves that they do not hold democracy or institutions dear, or hold the constitution or law sacred. They are only interested in their own person, their own benefit, their own assets and properties,” she said.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2019