ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senators, who had formed a separate group on the opposition benches, on Tuesday met Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and asked him to treat them as “independent opposition”.
According to an official handout issued by the Senate Secretariat, the PML-N delegation, headed by Azam Nazeer Tarar, informed the Senate chairman that their group comprised 27 senators and that they should be consulted separately at the time of formation of the standing and functional committees of the house.
The PML-N senators who accompanied Mr Tarar were Musadik Malik, Rana Maqbool Ahmed and Afnanullah Khan.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate during its first session on Monday, Mr Tarar had declared that the opposition members belonging to five parties did not support Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as the leader of opposition and they had decided to sit on the opposition benches as an independent group.
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The independent opposition group comprises the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Balochistan National Party-Mengal, National Party and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
In his apparent reference to a group of independents, led by PML-N dissident Dilawar Khan and comprising the senators known to have affiliation with the Balochistan Awami Party, who had voted for Mr Gilani in the election to the post of leader of the opposition in the Senate, Mr Tarar had stated that the government had given the ‘gift’ of Senate opposition leader’s seat to Mr Gilani.
Mr Tarar had been nominated by the PML-N as leader of the opposition in the Senate as per the decision of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
The PPP, however, not only objected to Mr Tarar’s nomination for being a lawyer for the accused police officials in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, but also claimed their right to the opposition leader’s office for being the largest party on the opposition benches with 21 senators.
Mr Gilani was later declared as the opposition leader by the Senate chairman after he submitted a list of 30 senators, including those five senators who had been sitting on the treasury benches for the past three years, as his supporters. The decision not only caused a rift within the PDM, but also pitched the PPP and the PML-N, the two arch rivals of the past, against each other.
In his speech, Mr Gilani had expressed his desire to take the opposition and the government along, pointing out that the basic objective when the 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, later showed unity in the house 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.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021