PML-N, PPP at loggerheads over Senate slot

Maryam insists leader of opposition should be from her party; PPP thinks otherwise

Rameez Khan March 22, 2021
Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh rally. SCREENGRAB


In what appears to be a clear sign of growing rift between the two major parties of the 11-party opposition alliance – the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – both the PML-N and the PPP on Sunday laid claim to the key position of the leader of opposition in the Senate.

Addressing a news conference following a meeting with the PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at her Jati Umrah residence in Lahore, PML-N de facto chief Maryam Nawaz made it clear that the opposition leader in Senate will be from her party as it was decided “in principle” at a PDM huddle.

“At the meeting held at [PML-N leader] Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s residence, we had decided to support PPP’s Yusuf Raza Gilani for the slot of the Senate chairman, JUI-F's Abdul Ghafoor Haideri for the slot of the deputy chairman, and a PML-N candidate for the leader of the opposition slots.

“Winning or losing [the Senate chairman poll] was not discussed as a factor for any change in the decision,” Maryam said, referring to the meeting held ahead of the elections for the chairman and deputy chairman of the upper house. She said the decision was given the PDM’s stamp of approval.

“All parties should stand by this decision. If someone thinks there is some room for reconsideration, they too can be convinced that a principled decision has been made with no need for a review. I hope the remaining parties will agree with PML-N’s position,” she said.

PDM chief Fazl also agreed with Maryam that it was the PML-N’s right to nominate the opposition leader. The PML-N – the largest opposition party – is reportedly considering the names of Azam Nazeer Tarar and Sadia Abbasi for the position.

PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, however, claimed that the PDM is intact and there is no division in the alliance formed in September last year with the avowed aim to dislodge the PTI government.

“There are a few things that remain to be sorted out, but these matters too will be addressed. Things are under control,” he said in response to a question during Sunday's press conference.

Referring to the PPP's reluctance to resign from assemblies, he said they hope that the PPP will respect the decision of nine other parties in the PDM. “We will wait for the PPP CEC meeting. We are ready to consider their decision and will sort out the issues through dialogue,” he added.

However, PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf said with 21 senators in the upper house, the PPP is the single largest opposition party in the Senate and the party believes that in accordance with democratic traditions the slot of opposition leader in the Senate should go to it.

In a statement, Ashraf said the two other most important parliamentary positions – the opposition leader in the National Assembly and the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee – are held by the PML-N.

“It would be only right and proper that the third important parliamentary position is given to the largest opposition party in the upper house instead of the party which already held the other two important parliamentary positions,” said Ashraf who also served as the prime minister from 2012 to 2013.

He, however, expressed the hope that the issue will be settled “amicably with consensus” in accordance with the 'established democratic norms and traditions'.

Earlier talking to The Express Tribune, another PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said the PPP leadership has already communicated its concerns to the PML-N leadership about their decision to nominate Senator Azam Nazir Tarar as Senate leader of opposition.

“It is unfair [on part of the PML-N] to nominate a person who was a counsel of the murderers of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto [the PPP’s slain chairperson],” he said.

He said Yousuf Raza Gillani was wrongfully deprived of the Senate chairman’s position through alleged rigging and he is the most senior and seasoned politician on opposition benches, eligible for the position of the leader of opposition in the Senate.

“We have already moved the court against the Senate chairman’s election. If we win the slot of the Senate chairman, the PML-N can have the position of the leader of opposition, but if not then the PML-N should consider the change in the scenario,” he said.

PDM sans PPP?

During the Sunday media talk, Maryam Nawaz made it clear that the PML-N and the JUI-F could on their own lead an agitation movement against the PTI government. She said both the PML-N and the JUI-F have organized a number of big rallies and procession throughout the country.

“If needed, we could run a movement against this incompetent government. However, it would be better if all parties remain united and move ahead to meet the demand of the people,” she added.

When asked if the PDM is moving ahead without the PPP, Fazl said the PDM will even address concerns of the smallest constituent party. “The PPP is a big and an important party in the PDM so their concerns will be resolved through dialogue,” he added.

Fazl said the workers of the PDM parties will also accompany Maryam during her appearance before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigators on March 26.

"The reasons stated by NAB for the hearing have actually unveiled the true face of NAB. We have always said that NAB doesn't act on its own," the PDM chief said. "During the hearing on March 26, millions of PDM workers will be there with Maryam," Fazl added.

He said the masses have been deprived of necessities by inflation and power tariffs and Pakistan has been made to follow the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) orders.

The PDM appeared to be in tatters last week owing to a divide on the issue of resignations of the opposition parties’ lawmakers from the assemblies, forcing it to postpone its anti-government long march to Islamabad, earlier scheduled for March 26.

The PDM summit had ended without taking any decision on major issues as leaders engaged in heated exchanges with each other over resignations, Senate elections, and on the question of who to nominate as leader of opposition in the upper house of parliament.

The PPP – which rules the province of Sindh – refused to resign from the assemblies, while the PML-N refused to recall its supreme leader Nawaz Sharif from London.


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