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July 22, 2019

Senate requisitioned session: Clamour imminent over no-trust motion against chairman

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July 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD: An intense wrangle between the opposition parties and ruling coalition-backed Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on the question of taking up the no-confidence motion against him, is in the offing in the Senate on Tuesday when it holds the requisitioned session.

Sanjrani is insistent that a no-trust resolution can’t be voted upon in a requisitioned session as such a sitting is used only to discuss important national issues that are specified by its sponsors in the request.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies fully share the chairman’s opinion and stand with him against the no-trust resolution.

Parliamentary sources are of the firm opinion that the requisitioned session, which would prove to be short-lived due to the ensuing row, was likely to be marred by pandemonium with the opposition insisting that its no-confidence motion should be immediately discussed and voted upon and the other side aggressively opposing any such process. The chairman is empowered to summon and prorogue a requisitioned session unlike the normal sitting that is called and prorogued by the president.

The chairman, who is unexpected to preside over the requisitioned session, paving the way for a member of the nominated panel of chairmen for the session, is of the considered view that only an ordinary Senate session convened by the president on the government’s request moved through the parliamentary affairs ministry is authorised to deliberate upon a no-trust motion. To break the logjam, President Arif Alvi has now summoned Senate session to meet on Aug 1 in which two no-trust motions one against Sanjrani and the other against Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla will come up.

Leader of the House Shibli Faraz says a no-confidence motion can’t be laid before a requisitioned session and a sitting called by the president is required for it.

However, opposition Senator Dr Asif Kirmani says it would be a violation of the rules if their motion was not allowed to be moved in the Senate during its requisitioned session for voting. “When the chairman has lost the confidence of the majority of the senators, how can he continue in his office? We have demonstrated out numerical superiority. If the government has the numbers, it should show them.”

In a tit-for-tat move, the PTI and its allies also handed over to the Senate secretariat their no-trust motion against Mandviwalla following the opposition’s resolution. As far as the requisitioned session is concerned, there is no talk about voting out the deputy chairman and the entire focus is on the resolution against Sanjrani. The PTI says since it had supported Mandviwalla in his election March last year, he needs to be ousted because he has lost its confidence.

Since the filing of the no-trust resolution and requisition by the opposition with the Senate secretary on July 9, the chairman has been hesitant to call the session, and has urged its detractors to take it back to avoid setting a bad precedent. However, he is required under the rules to summon the requisitioned session within fourteen days. He convened it on the last day of the deadline.

The opposition parties have nominated National Party President Hasil Bizenjo as its candidate for the office of the chairman in case Sanjrani is ousted. The PTI is yet to name its contestant because it strongly hopes that it will be able to defeat the no-trust resolution against Sanjrani. It expects defections from the opposition in the secret ballot. In March 2018, there were some floor-crossing from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which had at the time formed a committee to identify the defectors.

Legal experts say the anti-defection article of the Constitution would not apply to any senator, who would vote against the decision of his party during the balloting on the no-confidence motion against Sanjrani. They say Article 63A can only be invoked in certain situations. According to it, if a member of a parliamentary party composed of a single political party in a House (1) resigns from membership of his political party or (2) joins another parliamentary party; or (3) votes or (4) abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to election of the prime minister or the chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill; he may be declared in writing by the party head to have defected, and the party head may forward a copy of the declaration to the chairman/speaker and the chief election commissioner and shall similarly forward its copy to the member concerned.

However, before making the declaration, the party head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him. Party head means any person, by whatever name called, declared as such by the party. The opposition has a clear majority of over sixty-five senators in the 104-member House, which is enough for the success of the no-confidence motion if all of its members stand with it.

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