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ISLAMABAD: Ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has quietly reached an understanding with opposition’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that would allow the latter to get a significant share in Senate’s standing and functional committees, and, in return, PPP would support the government for ‘smooth’ running of the house business.

As part of this understanding that is reached with the direct involvement of Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, key government bills will not be opposed by the PPP-led opposition even though PPP would continue to show ‘ceremonial’ opposition to government’s policies in the upper house of the Parliament, Business Recorder has learnt.

However, the other faction of opposition led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that is left out, claims to have the support of 27 senators and it is likely to create problems for both PTI and PPP in Senate.

Consultations between the PTI and PPP over committees’ formation are still underway and it is unclear at this point how many committees PPP senators would be heading.

“There have been multiple rounds of meetings between leader of the house and leader of the opposition in Senate. It has been decided that PPP would get a hefty share in Senate committees but modalities are yet to be chalked out,” said a PTI senator, requesting anonymity.

The source said that both PTI and PPP have decided not to involve PML-N in the formation of Senate committees since leader of the house and leader of opposition have a direct role in this regard and there is no requirement to include any other party. “Even chairman Senate has nothing to do with formation of Senate committees,” the source said.

Tension between PML-N and PPP escalated further last week when two PML-N senators Musadik Malik and Irfan Siddiqui visited Parliament House to hold consultations with PPP and government over the formation of committees but Dr Shahzad Waseem, Leader of the House, and Yousaf Raza Gillani, Leader of the Opposition, held one-on-one meeting and the two PML-N senators were left out, sources in Senate Secretariat told Business Recorder.

Senior PPP leader and former chairman Senate Nayyar Hussain Bukhari denied that PML-N has been left out in the formation of Senate committees. “PPP believes in taking on board all the political forces for smooth functioning of Parliament. But we alone cannot take this decision. It’s up to PML-N to demonstrate how much they are willing to be part of a united opposition,” he told Business Recorder.

Bukhari denied that PPP and PTI reached any understanding in Senate. “Consultations between leader of the house and opposition for formation of committees are part of rules of business. There is nothing unusual about these consultations,” he said.

According to PTI sources, Senate Secretariat issuing press releases of the activities of leader of the opposition indicates that PTI and PPP, with the involvement of chairman Senate, are in reconciliatory mode.

“In the past, Senate Secretariat would give coverage mainly to the activities of chairman, deputy chairman and leader of the house. But the activities of leader of opposition were not given any space in official handouts of Senate Secretariat. This has changed as result of backdoor negotiations,” said a senator, wishing not to be named.

Another development that indicates reconciliation between government and PPP-led opposition is postponement of meeting of committee to investigate irregularities during Senate polls that was scheduled on April 19. On March 26, in what came as a huge setback to opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani from PPP was appointed as Leader of the Opposition in Senate despite strong concerns from PDM leadership including that of PML-N; against Gillani’s elevation to Senate’s top opposition slot. Gillani’s candidature was supported by 30 opposition senators.

In 100-seat Senate whose present strength is 99 members, 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.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021