The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) that has already suffered various defections in the past is poised to face another setback immediately after joining the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government, as a major group of its senators have decided to sit in the opposition in violation of their parent party’s discipline.
With different parties vying for the post of leader of the opposition in the Senate, PML-Q senators who were opposed to joining the government have also entered the race by forming a new group.
The group has started consultations with the Salim Saifullah-led PML-Q breakaway faction, commonly known as the like-minded group, to put up a joint candidate for the new leader of opposition, a slot also being contested by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
PML-Q has a total of 21 members in the Senate and is the second largest party in the Senate after the ruling PPP. The party was divided into two major groups in the House, a bigger one led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and another one headed by Salim Saifullah.
Waseem Sajjad of Shujaat’s group was holding the office of leader of the opposition in the Senate.
The office has fallen vacant after Sajjad joined the treasury benches.
JUI-F is now in the opposition but is still being persuaded to re-join the PPP-led coalition government. It has around 11 members in the senate, PML-N has seven members, Jamaat-e-Islami three members while eight members from Fata are divided into two groups, one supports the government while the other is in the opposition, but their composition keeps changing.
PML-Q’s like-minded faction, led by Senator Salim Saifullah claims the support of senators Haroon Akhtar, Ghafar Qureshi and Fauzia Fakhruz Zaman. The newly-formed PML-Q dissent group of senators led by Senator Tariq Azim, claims the support of senators Naeem Hussain Chattha, Jamal Leghari, Javed Ali Shah, Gulshan Saeed. The group is also trying to get the support of senators SM Zafar, Muhammad Ali Durrani, Muhammad Khan Muree and Nilofer Bakhtiar.
The newly-formed group will be applying for separate seats on the opposition benches today. If the new group succeeds in mustering the support of these members and joins hands with the like-minded group, their total strength can come up to a dozen members, the largest among all the opposition groups.
On the other hand, the senators of the PML-N and JUI-F held separate meetings to bag the support of other groups to get one of their members selected as the leader of the opposition.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2011.