Wednesday May 29, 2024

Moves in Senate

By Editorial Board
July 29, 2019

The political opposition will be pushing ahead with its plan to replace the chairman of the Senate, Sadiq Sanjrani, after last-ditch efforts to negotiate the matter with Maulana Fazalur Rehman and other opposition leaders fell through. There has been an element of ugliness in these talks with the leader of the house denying Fazal’s claims of an NRO style offer for Sanjrani and Imran. The opposition has already moved a no confidence motion against Sanjrani, with voting on this to take place on August 1. The pro-government alliance has meanwhile moved an identical motion against the deputy speaker. Mir Hazil Bizenjo of the NP is the joint opposition candidate to replace Sanjrani who was elected on a unified basis by the government and the opposition. However, the opposition which has over the last weeks been working on a strategy to demonstrate dissent against the government says the situation has now changed. A letter written by Senate Chairmain Sadiq Sanjrani to the PPP Senator Sherry Rehman suggesting that on technical grounds a no-confidence move could not be initiated during this session has been rejected.

The voting divide is fairly clear. In the 104-member Senate the PTI and its allies have 40 seats while the opposition holds 64. A majority vote is sufficient to bring about a new vote for a new chairman. Jam Kamal, the chief minister of Balochistan, had been placed in charge of efforts to save Sanjrani. It does not however seem he had made any obvious headway. Opposition senators have meanwhile been advised by their party leaders to remain present in the country.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other opposition leaders have warned against attempts to engage in horse trading. There are however no signs of a major opposition faction breaking away. While the divergent opposition alliance is made up of many former foes and groups with opposing ideologies, it seems to have remained united on its decision to replace the Senate chairman mainly as a show of strength. A ‘black day’ was also observed by the parties on Thursday. The removal of Sanjrani would come as an embarrassment to the PTI. But in the volatile politics of Pakistan it is never sensible to make predictions in advance. What we need to think about is how the interestingly bitter political divide in the country is affecting the political environment and to some degree at least preventing a more united effort to resolve problems. In democracies the opposition is a part of the system. The skill of those in government lies in taking them along accepting dissenting opinion when voiced in parliament and hearing out opponents. These are ways in which the system gains in strength and is able to avoid direct clashes such as the one now likely to come in the Senate.