The opposition in the Senate will be leaderless when the government presents the budget for the next fiscal year today (Friday).
After the Chaudhry Shujaat-led Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) joined the government last month, Waseem Sajjad, who was the leader of the opposition in the Senate, joined the treasury benches and resigned from the post.
Members of different parties have been manoeuvring for the slot with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) emerging as the main contenders. The PML-N has nominated Ishaq Dar while the JUI-F has fielded Ghafoor Haidri for the post, which will be decided and notified by the chairman of the Senate. Differences within the opposition ranks have left the chairman ambivalent and no one has been notified as the new leader of the opposition.
According to Senate rules, an election for the office of leader of the Opposition is not held. Instead, the speaker of the National Assembly and chairman of the Senate notifies a member as leader of the opposition who he/she believes commands a majority among opposition members.
It is also a parliamentary practice that once the government presents the budget before parliament, the leaders of the opposition, both in the National Assembly and Senate, kick off the debate. In the absence of a leader of the opposition in the Senate, it will be interesting to see who initiates debate from the opposition in the Senate, which has been given more powers in budget-related issues after the passage of the 18th amendment.
In another interesting development, Chaudhry Nisar, the leader of opposition in the National Assembly, has invited the dissident members of the breakaway PML-Q of Ch. Shujaat for a meeting to chalk out a joint opposition strategy for the budget session.
Among the other opposition parties and groups in both houses of parliament, he has invited the Saleem Saifullah-led PML-Q dissidents and another group of Q-League dissidents who have formed a separate group, called the independent group, to protest their party joining the government.
In case the PML-N decides to vote against the budget and are joined by the PML-Q dissidents, the latter could be expelled for defying the edicts of their party leadership.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ