ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is likely to retain Raja Zafarul Haq as leader of the house in Senate for the second consecutive term. According to sources, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has decided to nominate Haq for the slot but a formal announcement is yet to be made.
In the light of existing electoral provisions, leader of the house in the Senate is the representative of prime minister even though a senator is not eligible to become a PM, who has to be elected from the National Assembly.
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“‘Leader of the house’ means the prime minister or a member appointed by him to represent government and regulate government business in the Senate when the prime minister is not sitting in the house,” according to Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate 2012.
Majority of the PML-N leaders in the Senate is in favour of retaining Haq as leader of the house. He lost elections for the Senate chairman to opposition’s candidate Sadiq Sanjrani on March 12.
The PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has also held consultations with the PML-N allies in the Senate including the National Party, the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and those independent candidates who are siding with the ruling party.
The PML-N leaders who are regarded as candidates for slot of the leader of the house – including Pervaiz Rashid and Mushahidullah Khan – have also supported Haq’s candidature, sources said
“There is a general feeling in PML-N that (Haq) suffered due to the mismanaged strategy of the PML-N in the Senate chairman election and that he should be ‘compensated’,” said a PML-N senator wishing not to be identified.
Haq, who was finally nominated by the ruling party at the last hour to contest the Senate chairman’s election, was earlier regarded as an obvious candidate for the said slot.
Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PM Abbasi, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and most of the PML-N Punjab chapter member were in favour of elevating Haq as N-League’s candidate for chairman Senate given that he was acceptable to both government and opposition members..
However, the hardliner group in party wanted to bring a candidate like Pervaiz Rashid or Mushahidullah to serve the party’s interests in the upper house in the backdrop of the multifaceted challenges the ruling party is faced with instead of elevating a ‘moderate’ like Haq.
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Finally, the PML-N Punjab chapter prevailed. “But it was probably too late which created uncertainty and send a wrong impression across that since the N-League lacked the desired majority of 53 votes, it was delaying to name a candidate,” said a close aide of Haq, wishing not to be named.
As leader of the house in the previous Senate, Haq played an instrumental role in serving the PML-N leadership’s interests including the legislation that paved way for Sharif’s reelection as PML-N president despite being disqualified by the Supreme Court from holding any political or public office, before the top court struck down this legislation and disqualified Sharif again.
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