ISLAMABAD: A day before nail-biting election of chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday finally nominated Mirza Muhammad Afridi as ruling coalition’s candidate for the slot of deputy chairman amid severe resentment in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Interestingly, the prime minister took the decision before presiding over a meeting of the PTI core committee and only informed the participants that he had nominated a senator from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) for the deputy chairmanship.
Some PTI leaders believed that there were possibilities that Mr Afridi might not be able to win the election against Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, a joint candidate of opposition parties in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
An insider told Dawn on condition of anonymity that there was a severe resentment within the PTI over Mr Afridi’s nomination. He said some senior leaders of the party told the prime minister that the party had already ceded the slot of chairman by nominating Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP) leader and incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani as joint candidate of the government and now the ruling party had also been deprived of the post of deputy chairman.
Resentment in ruling party over nomination; opposition claims Afridi being PML-N senator cannot contest as PTI nominee
“Some senior leaders wanted that deputy chairman should be from the ruling party from Punjab,” the source said.
Another source said Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had played a major role in the nomination of Mr Afridi possibly because of his personal connection with the senator.
Three PTI leaders were seeking the slot of deputy chairman — Saifullah Niazi, Ijaz Chaudhry and Aun Abbas Bappi.
When contacted, Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Wasim said the prime minister wanted to give representation to the erstwhile Fata in the upper house of parliament and, therefore, Mr Afridi was nominated for the position.
On the other hand, the opposition claimed that Mirza Afridi was a member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and, therefore, he could not contest the election as PTI nominee.
However, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said Mr Afridi was an independent senator and he had never joined the PML-N.
Addressing the PTI core committee meeting, the prime minister, despite opposition’s majority in the Senate, vowed that the government candidates for the offices of chairman and deputy chairman would win on Friday (today).
The contest is quite difficult for the government because in the number game the opposition has a majority of four to five seats in the upper house of parliament and it is impossible for the government to win the polls unless some opposition members vote for the government candidates during the secret ballot.
Following the March 3 Senate elections, the upper house of parliament has 99 members (excluding Ishaq Dar of the PML-N who did not take oath and went into self-exile), with 47 government and 52 opposition lawmakers.
The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has one senator who sits on the opposition benches. But if he abstains, (as the JI did in the March 3 Senate elections), the opposition will have a majority of four seats in the house.
Interestingly, Sadiq Sanjrani was elected Senate chairman three years ago when the opposition had a majority of 16 seats.
The prime minister said institutions were standing by the government as they knew that the government was taking decisions in the best interest of the country, adding that the government also enjoyed people’s support. He said the government had big challenges on political front but it would not surrender because of the opposition’s attempts to destabilise the government and the country.
PM Khan claimed that the people were fully backing him and that the PTI was prepared to even go for fresh elections.
Later, at a press conference, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, while giving details of the PTI’s core committee meeting, said the ruling party would win the election for the top Senate slots with the support of its allies. “We are fully prepared for tomorrow’s (Friday) polling for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman to the disappointment of the PDM, which will again face defeat.”
Flanked by Punjab chief minister’s special assistant Firdous Ashiq Awan, the minister said that by not supporting the corrupt PDM leadership, the people had made it clear that they always backed movements to end corruption and not to the ones aimed at saving corrupt leaders.
Mr Faraz said the party’s core committee had expressed full confidence in Prime Minister Khan and his policies. It lauded the achievements made by the government.
Besides political matters, he said, the committee also discussed ways and means to strengthen the party’s structure. “The PM directed the leaders to activate the party at grassroots level and hold regular interactions with the workers,” he added.
Referring to what he called Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s political maneuverings, the minister said the Maulana had held the so-called ‘Azadi march’ and returned empty handed from Islamabad without achieving his motives.
The government, he said, would not create any hurdle in the way of the PDM as its upcoming march was deemed to fail. However, in case of any law and order situation, the law would take its due course, he warned.
The minister said total 99 members would cast their votes for the top Senate slots on Friday. The PTI and its allied parties had 47 senators, while the PDM’s claim of having the support of 52 members, including nine independents, was false, he added. The PDM leadership, he said, had psychologically accepted their defeat in the election for the two Senate seats.
Dr Firdous said the core committee also discussed inflation and price hike, besides public welfare initiatives being taken by the federal government in collaboration with the provinces.
She condemned the allegations leveled against the National Assembly speaker and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister for horse-trading in the Senate polls.
She said the meeting also discussed various recommendations and suggestions for free, fair and transparent elections in the country as per the prime minister’s vision.
Earlier, in his tweets, Prime Minister Khan said that in the absence of justice and rule of law, a state could lead towards disintegration. “The recent Senate elections showed how we are losing our moral compass,” he said in a series of tweets.
He said once moral authority was lost by the state, the deal-making (NRO) was resorted to the powerful criminals. He mentioned a saying of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him): “Many nations before you were destroyed when there was one law for the powerful and another for the weak.”
The prime minister stressed that throughout the history, moral decay and corruption destroyed states because of their failure to deliver justice. He quoted several renowned personalities of their time who emphasised on morality in a society. He quoted British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke as saying in 1777: “All who have ever written on government are unanimous that among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.”
He quoted British judge Patrick Devlin (1905-92) as saying: “An established morality is as necessary as good government to the welfare of society. Societies disintegrate from within more frequently than they are broken up by external pressures.”
The prime minister also mentioned a quote of American General Douglas McArthur (18880-1964): “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline”.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2021