ISLAMABAD: The opposition may have pulled a surprise on the government by electing their candidate to the slot of Senate chairman but the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is not ready to let it go and has decided to take on Sadiq Sanjrani.
The PML-N was considering bringing a no-confidence motion against the new Senate chairman but dropped the plan due to constitutional limitations, it is learnt.
As Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi repeatedly targets Sanjrani, questioning his legitimacy to be in the office after ‘buying votes,’ the PML-N is all set to get tough with the new chairman inside the upper house once it is in session.
Discussions with some PML-N lawmakers suggest that the party leadership, using its strength in the Senate, will adopt an ‘unsparing’ attitude towards the Senate chairman, staging walkouts, boycotting the related proceedings, causing low attendance/lack of quorum leading to adjournment of sessions, trading harsh words with the Senate chief, etc.
PML-N sources said the party leadership also mulled over moving court against Sanjrani’s election on account of his ‘young age’ as Senate chairman, but constitutional limitations dissuaded the party from going ahead with the reported moves.
In light of the constitutional provisions, a no-confidence motion cannot be brought against a prime minister, chief minister(s), Senate chairman or National Assembly speaker before six months into their office.
Given that Sanjrani took oath as Senate chairman on March 12, no-confidence motion cannot be brought against him till September 12.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, former Election Commission of Pakistan secretary Kanwar Dilshad also endorsed this viewpoint.
“The PML-N has to wait for six months before proceeding against Sanjrani. But even if the Constitution allows, I don’t think the PML-N is really in a position to exercise the option of no-confidence motion right now.
“They lack the strength — not to forget what happened with them in Senate chairman elections. Their candidate (Raja Zafarul Haq) lost with a wide margin of 11 votes despite the PML-N being the majority party. So, do they really have the numerical numbers to get Sanjrani out of office, I doubt so.”
Dilshad said the Senate chairman can seek explanation from the prime minister for hurling ‘wild allegations’.
“In terms of protocol, the Senate chairman comes next to the president of Pakistan, who is the highest ranking official. The prime minister has not only insulted Sanjrani, but has also insulted the office of the Senate chairman. The chairman can seek explanation from him.”
Apart from that, in light of the Constitution, the minimum age for the election of president is 45. Given that Sanjrani is less than 45 years age (he would turn 40 on April 14), the PML-N was considering moving the court on the grounds that the chairman functions as acting president in the absence of president of Pakistan and Sanjrani was not eligible to hold this portfolio.
On similar grounds a petitioner has already challenged Sanjrani’s eligibility in the Supreme Court.
However, the ruling party dropped this plan given that the 45-year age restriction is on the ‘election of president’ while Sanjrani has not been an ‘elected president.’
“He is an elected Senate chairman who is appointed as president when the incumbent president is abroad or is not in office due to any other reason. The clause of election of president does not apply here. This is the reason we have not moved the court, fearing that such a petition may be rejected,” said a PML-N senator, wishing to be kept unidentified.
Article 41(2) reads, “A person shall not be qualified for election as president unless he is a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.”
Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq denied that the PML-N had any ‘aggressive’ plans to target the Senate chairman.
“We will follow the upper house’s decorum and will not resort to any move that is tantamount to breach of the sanctity of the Senate,” he told The Express Tribune.
Regarding PM’s statements against Sanjrani, Haq said, “What happened in the Senate elections is known to all. This is no hidden secret. The prime minister’s statements are in that context.”