Senators belonging to five Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties on Monday demanded that the Senate chairman allocate them separate benches in the upper house in what appears to be another sign of a widening rift between the PPP and the PML-N.
PML-N’s Azam Nazeer Tarar -- who heads the opposition lawmakers’ new bloc -- took the floor when the Senate session started and said that the 27 opposition lawmakers – belonging to the PML-N, the JUI-F, PkMAP, the NP and the BNP-M – are independent senators.
“We demand that our lawmakers be allotted a separate space. We will continue our constructive politics as independent opposition,” Tarar said.
He also urged Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, who was in the chair, to probe into the installation of secret cameras in the polling booth set up during the Senate chairman’s election.
During Tarar’s speech, some senators, including Dilawar Khan, an independent lawmaker, created disturbance. Addressing the house, Senator Shafiq Tareen of PkMAP said they are protesting the election of the Senate leader of opposition.
“Everyone knows what happened on March 12. Votes were sought from a member of the ruling coalition for securing the position of the leader of opposition,” he said.
Serious differences emerged between the PPP and the PML-N after the former appointed Yusuf Raza Gilani as Senate opposition leader in apparent violation of what had earlier been agreed upon in a PDM meeting.
Gilani was notified as opposition leader after some smaller opposition parties – including the ANP, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the BAP, a part of the ruling coalition – threw their weight behind him.
Irked by the move, leaders of eight PDM opposition parties on Friday agreed that “show cause notices” should be issued to the PPP and the ANP for disregarding the PDM’s decision.
The parties also agreed to form a separate bloc of 27 opposition senators in the upper house to be led by Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, the PML-N’s candidate for the position of Senate opposition leader.
Interestingly, Federal Minister for Aviation Azam Swati also called for a probe into the discovery of hidden cameras in the Senate during the March 12 polls for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani assured the lawmakers that a forensic probe will be launched to unveil the truth. He also asked the PML-N and other parties seeking separate benches to meet him in his chamber in this regard.
Taking the floor, Leader of Opposition Yousuf Raza Gilani said the Senate came into being under the 1973 Constitution in a bid to eradicate a sense of deprivation among the smaller provinces. “Had this sense of deprivation been addressed earlier, the nation could have avoided disintegration of Pakistan in 1971.”
Talking with reference to his election as a senator, the former premier said becoming a senator was not that easy, adding that he had earlier only contested election for the National Assembly.
Gilani said: “Pakistan is our country and we are aware of its problems.” He said during his term as the prime minister he used to speak on behalf of the ministers who found it difficult to respond to the queries of the house. “If needed, we will even speak on behalf of the government,” he added.
Explaining his point, he said it was incumbent on all the citizens to try to resolve the collective problems of the country. “It is our responsibility to represent the people. We are one in our effort to provide relief to the masses,” he added.
Taking a jibe at the PDM, Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem said the 11-party opposition alliance did whatever was in its power to dislodge the PTI led government including staging rallies and protests.
“However, the opposition failed to distract Prime Minister Imran Khan from his purpose. The premier is serving with a national agenda,” he said. “There used to be a PDM [alas it is no more],” he added. Dr Waseem invited the leader of opposition to work together for introducing reforms.
The house also approved a resolution moved by the PPP for provision of coronavirus vaccines either for free or at a reduced price. The government opposed the resolution and declared it absurd and an attempt to politicize the contagion.
The resolution said many countries are vaccinating their citizens for coronavirus disease free of charge. However, the vaccine is sold in Pakistan at Rs8400 which is much higher than the average price of vaccine in other countries.
The resolution also took exception to giving the contract to import the vaccine to a private company. It said this decision of the government is against Article 38 of the Constitution, which says the state must provide basic rights to its citizens.
Dr Shahzad Waseem said Covid-19 is not a political issue. It is the question of the country’s survival. “The government is aware of its responsibility with regard to the pandemic. However, this resolution is a charge-sheet against the government and is without any rhyme and reason,” he said.
When the resolution was tabled for voting, 43 senators voted in its favour while 31 opposed it.