In a rude shock to the joint opposition as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and its allies were able to save Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani from ouster despite the opposition having a clear majority in the Upper House of Parliament. As the session chaired by Barrister Muhammad Saif started in the day, the opposition moved a motion seeking Sanjrani’s removal which was endorsed by 64 senators.
Both Leader of House Shibli Faraz and Leader of Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq forgo the debate on the motion and agreed to send it to the secret balloting.
However, needing only 53 of the 64 votes to send Sanjrani home, the opposition instead fell three short when the final results ballot were announced. The final vote count was 50 votes in favour of the motion, five votes rejected, and 45 cast against.
The ruling PTI and its allies have 36 senators, meaning that nine opposition senators voted for Sanjrani. There were also three abstentions: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Chaudhry Tanvir, who has reportedly fallen ill, was not in attendance, whereas two Jamaat-e-Islami members decided to abstain from the proceedings.
Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Saleem Mandviwalla, Senate’s deputy chairman, also managed to retain his spot by defeating a motion filed by the government senators against him.
This is the first time the Upper House of parliament has seen no-confidence motions being moved against its chairman and deputy chairman. The motion against Sanjrani was submitted by opposition members last month. A similar motion was submitted by the government senators against Senate Deputy Chairman Mandviwala in a tit-for-tat move.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari vowed to take action against opposition senators who defied party policy and voted against the no-confidence motion against the Senate chief.
“We will look into our party to see which of [our members] came under pressure or sold their conscience,” a visibly angry Bilawal said.
There is also speculation from analysts that with the five discarded votes that could potentially have made the difference between Sanjrani staying and his exit, there may be another motion of no confidence against him moved in the coming few weeks. Naturally, strategy will be decided after discussion between the opposition parties.
No doubt the upset has triggered serious deliberation among opposition parties circles. They should expose the defectors and the elements responsible for the defections. PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has collected resignations from his party senators and said action would be taken against those who defied the party policy. The PML-N also should get rid of its absentee senator as well as those who went against its policy.
By all means, the opposition was hopeful of winning the day because of its numerical strength. In the house of 104, it showed its power many times: it had 64 senators on its side. On the fateful day, 64 members from the opposition rose at their seats to approve the motion against Mr Sanjrani submitted by leader of the opposition, Raja Zafarul Haq, in the house. The results of secret balloting were otherwise. Of the absentees, one is Chaudhry Tanvir of the PML-N.
He is accused of keeping 600,000 kanals in the names of his servants. His absence seems to be a deliberate act, and his party must take notice of it. The other absentees were Sirajul Haq and Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Islami. Both had already announced their decision to abstain. The jubilant government must think about the harm they have done to democracy.
Conceding the office of the senate chairman to the opposition would not have made much difference to its power. For now, we wait to see what impact it will have on politics in a country where there have been frequent allegations of horse-trading and worse.