Fiery Senate session likely today

Opposition parties to meet ahead of the session to devise a protest strategy

Sardar Sikander October 08, 2018

ISLAMABAD: With the opposition parties having joined hands against the arrest of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, the Upper House of Parliament is all set to witness a tumultuous session today (Monday).

The Senate session is scheduled at 3pm. Although the Senate Secretariat last week issued a detailed agenda for today’s session that includes introduction of 24 bills, five motions and four resolutions, the House is expected to bypass part of the routine agenda to debate Shehbaz being arrested and then remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for 10 days in a corruption scandal on Saturday.

His arrest attracted condemnation from opposition parties.

Chairman PML-N Raja Zafarul Haq, in his capacity as Leader of the House in Senate, earlier on Saturday, convened a meeting of opposition parties today (Monday) in a  bid to map out a collective strategy against Shehbaz’s arrest. The meeting is scheduled at 2pm, an hour ahead of the scheduled session of the upper house.

Also, the PML-N chairman wrote to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking its intervention against the arrest of Shehbaz, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in NA.

Even though the PML-N leaders claim to enjoy full support of opposition parties on the issue, it seems less likely that the opposition parties would take to roads or launch street agitation, fearing lack of public support.

On several occasions, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has already expressed its belief in “struggle for democracy inside parliament” instead of taking to streets. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has indicated on a number of occasions the party has no plans to destabilise the federal government.

Speaking to The Express Tribune earlier on Saturday, senior PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah claimed that opposition parties had assured the PML-N of full support against Shehbaz’s arrest and would launch a collective struggle in this regard, he said.

However, he did not confirm or deny if the party had plans to organise large-scale protests against the arrests of its leaders.

“Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, Hanif Abbasi and Raja Qamarul Islam were arrested before general elections. Shehbaz Sharif is arrested before [the October 14] by-elections and we have heard that Khawaja Saad Rafique is the next target. These moves aim at denying the PML-N of its electoral mandate by arresting its electables. If this practice does not stop, the PML-N will not let the rulers live in peace,” Sanaullah said, adding that any decision on street agitation would be taken in consultation with other opposition parties.

Harsh words were exchanged between the government and opposition benches in Senate over Information Minister Fawad Chauhdry’s remarks made in the National Assembly a few days back in which he dubbed the former rulers as ‘dacoits’ and ‘thieves’ but later apologised for his remarks in the lower house.

While senators demanded of Fawad to tender an apology in the Senate too, he refused to do so on the grounds that he had already apologised in the NA. The tension in Senate escalated following serious verbal spat between Fawad and opposition senators which prompted Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani to adjourn the Senate session earlier on Wednesday.

In today’s session, senators belonging to the PML-N and other opposition parties have planned to criticise the government over Shehbaz’s arrest that is likely to reignite tension between the treasury and opposition benches.



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