ISLAMABAD: In what came as a huge setback to opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was appointed as Leader of the Opposition in Senate on Friday despite strong ‘concerns’ from PDM leadership including those of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) against Gilani’s elevation to Senate’s top opposition slot.
Flanked by party leaders, Gilani visited Senate Secretariat to submit his application for the slot of opposition leader. The application was signed by 30 opposition senators – 21 PPP senators, a group of four independent senators led by Dilawar Khan, two Awami National Party (ANP) senators, two independent senators from erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and a Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) senator.
Acting Secretary Senate Major Syed Hasnain Haider (retd) on behalf of Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, notified Gilani as Leader of the Opposition in Senate in pursuance of Rule 16 (3) of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate 2012.
This rule reads, “The chairman shall declare a member as leader of the opposition having the support of majority of the members in opposition: Provided that if two or more members have equal support for the office of leader of the opposition, the member belonging to the party having largest numerical strength in the opposition to the government, shall be declared by the chairman, as leader of the opposition in the Senate.”
In 100-seat Senate whose present strength is 99 members, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led ruling coalition has 47 seats and opposition has 52 seats. One Senate seat is vacant as PML-N’s Ishaq Dar did not take oath since his re-election as a senator in March 2018.
Later, addressing a press conference, Gilani said it was PPP’s right to be given the slot of opposition leader in Senate on the basis of being the single largest opposition party in the Upper House of the Parliament.
“PML-N is single largest opposition party in National Assembly so it has the slot of opposition leader in NA as well as the chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee,” he said.
“PPP took this stance that it deserved the slot of opposition leader in Senate but we did not actively raise this issue in PDM huddles ahead of Senate elections to avoid any confrontation—I was contesting chairman Senate election and we did not want any division in PDM ranks,” he said.
Impliedly admitting that all is not well opposition parties in PDM, Gilani, however, said PDM should stay united.
“We had a ceasefire—Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman contacted Asif Ali Zardari and it was agreed that exchange of hostile statements between PDM leaders should be avoided to keep the PDM intact— but we have been hearing hostile statements and accusations of being a ‘sarkari’ (government sponsored) opposition in Senate— and that senators from Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) supported me to become opposition leader. This is all false. No one from BAP supported me. Such kind of statements create hostility and misunderstanding,” he said.
Gilani also admitted that there was ‘difference of opinion’ between PDM party heads in a recent meeting over resignations from the National and provincial assemblies.
“But before that, the issue of resignations was discussed in PPP’s Central Executive Committee meeting. Our jurists were of the view that even if the entire opposition resigned from the assemblies, Senate elections would still be held. We shared with the PDM the expert opinion of our jurists and it was unanimously decided not to quit assemblies, and to contest by-polls and Senate elections. But we were shocked when this demand of resignations resurfaced in a recent PDM party heads meeting,” Gilani said. The issue of resignations would be taken up for a decision in CEC’s upcoming meeting, he said.
“Our leader Benazir Bhutto had said it was a mistake to boycott 1985 general polls — Parliament is the voice of people and quitting its membership deprives people of their voice,” he said in an apparent indication that PPP is not ready to quit Parliament and provincial assemblies.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021