New Senate with divided opposition begins session today


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ISLAMABAD: The new Senate which emerged last month after the much-hyped election is set to begin its first session on Monday (today) with a strengthened coalition government facing a divided opposition.

After struggling for nearly two and a half years as a minority government in the Senate, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is now in a much better position in the upper house of parliament after becoming the single largest party and winning both the offices of the chairman and deputy chairman. The government is also expected to benefit from a rift in the opposition parties.

Although the PTI has become the single largest party in the 99-member Senate with 28 members, it is still not in a commanding position for carrying out legislation without the support of its allies.

On the other hand, the opposition parties, which had jointly contested the Senate election from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and caused a major upset by defeating former finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on a general seat from Islamabad, have announced their decision to sit in two groups in the Senate.

PPP nominates Sherry as its parliamentary leader

Refusing to accept Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as opposition leader, five opposition parties headed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have already announced their decision to form a separate opposition group in the Senate.

These parties are angry over the PPP’s move to get the slot of the Senate opposition leader with the support of the independent senators who are known to be affiliated with Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), a party considered to be created by the establishment only weeks before the 2018 general elections and which is a partner with the PTI in the ruling coalition.

The differences within the PDM first came to the surface when the PPP, while backtracking from its earlier agreed formula regarding the distribution of the three top Senate offices, unilaterally nominated Mr Gilani for the opposition leader’s office and started lobbying for it. By now the relationship between the PPP and the PML-N have become so tense that the parties have started accusing each other of damaging the opposition’s unity with clandestine support of the establishment.

The PPP has 21 senators on opposition benches whereas the PML-N with 17 members is the second largest party. Mr Gilani managed to get the opposition leader’s office with the support of 30 senators, including two of the Awami National Party (ANP) and one Jamaat-i-Islami, besides six independents.

The opposition group headed by the PML-N comprises 27 senators belonging to five component parties of the PDM. This group held a meeting in Islamabad on April 2 in which they decided not to accept Mr Gilani as the opposition leader and announced formation of a separate group.

They also decided that they would ask PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman to seek an explanation from the PPP and the ANP over the violation of the unanimous decision of the PDM.

Sources said Maulana Fazl had accepted the demand of the PMLN and other parties to issue show cause notices to the PPP and the ANP for allegedly violating the unanimous decision of the alliance. The notices are expected to be served in a day or two.

The PPP on Sunday again nominated Sherry Rehman as the parliamentary leader in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Senate Secretariat issued a 22-point agenda for the Senate sitting on Monday which includes a resolution to be moved by Kamran Murtaza of the JUI-F regarding the alleged delay in vaccinating the general public against Covid-19.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2021



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