ISLAMABAD: Cracks in ranks of the opposition came into the open on Monday as 27 senators belonging to five political parties formally announced formation of a separate group and refused to accept PPP Senator Yousuf Raza Gilani as Leader of the Opposition in the house.
The announcement was made by PML-N candidate for Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Azam Nazeer Tarar during the Senate session.
He said senators belonging to the PML-N, JUI-F, BNP-M, National Party and PkMAP had formed the separate group.
Mr Tarar said the government gave the ‘gift’ of Senate opposition leader seat to Mr Gilani, referring to a group of independents, led by PML-N dissident Dilawar Khan, who had voted for Mr Gilani to become Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
PML-N, JUI-F, BNP-M, NP and PkMAP are part of the new group
The PML-N leader also sought forensic probe into installation of spy cameras in and outside the polling booth established for election of the Senate chairman. Interestingly, this demand of the group was also endorsed by Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati.
Leader of the Opposition Senator Yousuf Raza Gilani in his first speech in the house expressed his desire to take the opposition and the government along, but the PML-N-led opposition group announced that it would play its independent role in the upper house of parliament.
Mr Gilani said he would also speak on behalf of the government if and when it faced difficulty.
He emphasised that the Senate was of the utmost importance in the federating system. “We all have to address problems of the people as it is our duty to be the spokespersons for the people and we are all one to give relief to the masses,” the opposition leader said.
He pointed out that the basic objective when the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had been formed was to safeguard the constitutional, democratic and economic rights of the people, especially of women, minorities, labour class and workers.
The divided opposition, however, showed unity when JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza moved a resolution that condemned the government for its failure to procure Covid-19 vaccine in time.
As many as 43 opposition senators voted in favour of the resolution, while 31 senators of the treasury benches opposed it.
Speaking on the resolution, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman criticised the higher price of Covid-19 vaccine in the country and said that “it is alarming that Pakistan has now over 61,000 active coronavirus cases and we still do not know if the government has ordered vaccine or not. The actual spread of the virus is likely to be far higher due to limited testing, with the country’s test-positive rate of 9.9 per cent being far higher than the World Health Organisation’s guideline figure of five per cent”.
She said that according to WHO, vaccination should be the fundamental right, but it was a matter of great concern that the poor people were once again being neglected while the rich will buy it or skip the queue.
Ms Rehman said that nearly 1,400 doses of the vaccine donated by China had either been administered to un-authorised people or gone missing in Punjab. Who will take responsibility for this?” she asked.
“Pakistan is experiencing the third wave of Covid-19 which is considered to be extremely dangerous while DRAP is still debating on prices of the vaccine. Can the government tell us the exact number of the vaccines it has imported?” she claimed.
A highlight of the day was introduction of an important bill in the house seeking extensive powers for the Senate through amendments to various articles of the Constitution.
The bill, moved in the house by former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani, seeks to effectively enforce participatory federalism, ensure provincial autonomy and provide a meaningful participation by the provinces and other territories in the affairs of the federation.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rabbani said that though the Senate was called the upper house of parliament, its powers in juxtaposition to the National Assembly were extremely low.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021