Defeat in the election of Senate chairman and deputy chairman on Friday turned out to be a rude awakening call for the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as it forced the bigwigs in the 11-party alliance to mull over the results, legal options, and a future course of action.
On Saturday, the PDM’s big three – Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman – held a telephonic conversation to discuss the Senate election result.
On Friday, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insafbacked Sadiq Sanjrani of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) pulled off a surprise 48-42 victory despite opposition’s numerical superiority in the upper house, after seven votes of PDM’s Yusuf Raza Gilani were rejected. Even more surprising was the 54-44 result of election for the post of the deputy chairman.
The PTI-backed candidate, Mirza Muhammad Afridi, had a lead of 10 votes against JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. Though the PDM has put up a brave face publically over Gilani’s defeat due to seven “rejected” votes but internally there were heated discussions as to why the seven voters “deliberately” stamped on the candidate’s name, and if it was a “mistake” why it was not repeated in the deputy chairman’s elections.
During the discussion, Zardari, Sharif and Fazl agreed to investigate the opposition senators, suspected of being close to Senate Chairman Sanjrani. They also agreed to take legal remedy in this regard. Meanwhile, Fazl wondered how the government candidate got all the seven votes in the election of deputy chairman that were rejected in the chairman’s elections. Reportedly, Fazl also insisted that there was no point in holding a long march without resigning from the assemblies.
“The PDM will meet on Tuesday [March 16] and a clearer picture will emerge after the meeting. Until now, it has been decided that the opposition alliance should seek justice from the courts,” PPP’s newly elected Senator Shahadat Awan told The Express Tribune. When asked if the parliamentary matters could be taken to the courts, Awan, a lawyer by profession who has served as the prosecutor general of Sindh, stressed that the courts provided the ultimate remedy when “no other forum is available” to get relief.
“One would go to the courts … to get legal relief,” Awan said, adding that the PPP had always believed in availing legal remedies available under the law and the Constitution. On the rejection of votes because of stamping on Gilani’s name in Friday’s voting, Awan said that “this shows voters’ clear intention” as they did not leave any doubt about their choice while casting vote.
To another question as to why Maulana Haideri of the JUI-F did not get the vote of the PDM lawmakers, Awan said that the voters got demoralised after seeing that the chairman’s slot was lost. A lawmaker, who did not want to be named, said that JUI-F was especially unhappy over deputy chairman’s election result as first it rejected the government’s offer to take deputy chairman’s seat and later it was ditched by the allies; leaving Fazl to reiterate his demand that parties gathered under the PDM banner should resign from the assemblies to make the proposed long march more effective.
The lawmaker said that the JUI-F and the PML-N are in favour of resigning from the assemblies and holding the long march but the PPP, on the other hand, insists on continuing the fight while staying inside parliament. On the long march expected to start from March 26, the lawmaker said that the PPP is interested in taking part in it but it wishes that it should not be taken beyond the death anniversary of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 4.
“The strategy regarding the long march and the resignations issue will be discussed in the upcoming PDM’s meeting,” the lawmaker added. Victory for both the government-backed candidates on the top Senate slots is considered a major shock for the anti-government alliance, which had stunned the government on March 3 when it took the federal capital’s seat in the Senate elections. Earlier this week, Fazl had shared a tentative plan for the PDM’s upcoming long march, saying that caravans would arrive in Islamabad by March 30.
The long march will begin from March 26, he had announced, adding that the caravans from every corner of the country will participate. Fazl had said that another meeting of the opposition leadership will be held on March 15 to discuss the modalities of long march. However, the alliance announced on Saturday that the meeting would now take place on March 16.
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