Senate showdown: Government, opposition clash today

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Ahead of today’s (Thursday) crucial senate session during which voting for the no-trust motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani would be held, the government and opposition refused to budge from their stance over the issue.

Sadiq Sanjrani insists that he has the support of majority in the Senate and Prime Minister Imran Khan has also announced full support to the Senate chairman to save him from the no-confidence vote. On the other hand, the opposition has advised Sadiq Sanjrani to resign before the no- confidence vote.

The PPP Chairman, Bilawal hosted a luncheon for opposition senators on Wednesday in which more than 50 senators from the PPP, PML-N, National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP) and erstwhile Fata participated. After the luncheon, Bilawal told reporters that Sadiq Sanjrani still had time to voluntarily resign if he wanted.

“If Sadiq Sanjrani has decided to resign even now, it will be a good decision,” he said, adding that the opposition had gathered enough numbers to deseat the Senate chairman. “It would have been good if the Senate chairman had resigned, otherwise he is going tomorrow anyway,” he said.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had announced on Tuesday that the voting for the no-trust motion against Sanjrani would be held on August 1. Leader of the House in the Senate syed Shibli Faraz had also made it clear that the government had no intention of using delaying tactics, adding that the agenda of the day would be circulated among the senators on Wednesday. Shibli Faraz on Wednesday rubbished the talk of Sanjrani resigning, saying he will fight the election “till the last man (and) the last moment”. Stressing that the government had trust in the Senate chairman, Shibli Faraz accusedopposition members of spreading the rumours regarding Sanjrani’s resignation.

The opposition’s joint candidate for Senate chairman Mir Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party, while speaking to reporters said that he had already won the day his name was put forward. Claiming to have the support of 65 opposition senators, Bizenjo too suggested Sanjrani to resign. “It would be better for him as well as for us,” he said.

The PPP leader Khursheed Shah warned the government to “stay away from horse-trading” in the matter of the no-trust vote. “Horse-trading has prevented the country from progressing,” Khursheed Shah said, adding that opposition members were “respectable and honourable”.

Meanwhile, the JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif at his Islamabad residence.

During the meeting, Fazl and Shahbaz discussed the no-trust move against the Senate chairman and the future strategy of the opposition. The two leaders also discussed the overall political and economic situation of the country.

Shahbaz chaired a meeting of the coordination committee of PML-N senators earlier in the day. “The opposition is united,” the PML-N president said, adding that the election for a new Senate chairman will be a victory for democracy and the Constitution.

He said the opposition holds a clear majority in the Senate chairman’s election, adding that there was no hurdle in the way of an opposition victory according to the numbers.

The meetings between opposition members come as the Senate secretariat finalised arrangements for the vote on the no-trust motion against the Senate chairman and Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla.

Senate Secretary Mohammad Anwar dispelled the impression that the voting process could be delayed, saying the resolutions against Sanjrani and Mandviwalla will be presented, and the voting will conclude today (Thursday).

He dismissed the idea that seven days were required for the voting process to be completed. The Senate will meet at 2:00pm and the members would move motions for seeking leave to move resolutions for removal of the chairman and deputy chairman and if the leave is granted, the resolutions would be voted upon.

The voting on the resolutions shall be by a secret ballot and each member will have one vote only. The names of senators will be called out in alphabetical order one by one. The member whose name is called will come to the secretary’s table to receive the ballot paper.

A ballot paper containing the two columns and duly signed upon by an officer of the Senate Secretariat and stamped on in its reverse with the seal of the Senate will be issued to each member: in favour of the resolution and against the resolution.

The PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif will host brunch for the opposition senators in the Parliament House today (Thursday) and it will be yet another occasion to show strength of the joint opposition.