Opposition parties in the anti-government coalition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) clashed in the first formal Senate session on Monday. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani chaired the first sitting.
Five opposition parties in the Senate, who had earlier decided to constitute an independent group in the House consisting of 27 members, demanded they be allotted separate opposition benches in the Senate. These parties are PML-N, JUI-F, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, National Party and BNP (Mengal).
The group is being led by the PML-N designated opposition leader Senator Azam Nazir Tarrar. “We should be allotted separate opposition benches and the hidden cameras [in the Senate elections] should be investigated,” Senator Tarrar said.
Senators supporting Opposition leader Yousaf Raza Gillani protested Tarrar’s remarks. Government members, too, protested when senators from the Balochistan Awami Party were presented with gifts and a commotion broke out in the House.
Tarrar said that 27 senators from five parties have formed a separate opposition group. He said the opposition will play a “positive and constructive” role. He said he was saddened by the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition.
On the other hand, the Dilawar Khan group, which supports Gillani, also demanded separate seats in the Senate.
Read more: Maryam Nawaz’s Silence – A Calculated Approach?
The House met today after the election of new senators on March 3, the Senate chairman and deputy chairman on March 12 and notification of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousaf Raza Gillani on March 26.
Can PPP and PML-N stay together?
Although the PDM was created with an apparent purpose to topple Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, yet the main opposition parties i.e. PPP and PML-N now seem to victims of internal fights as a result of ruthless power politics.
The ruling party has persistently argued that this alliance of the opposition parties is “unnatural” and cannot sustain. PM’s Special Assistant Usman Dar said in a talk-show that the alliance is without any ideology and has no potential to threaten the government. “You will soon witness their internal fights,” he said.
Notably, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday mocked PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and said that “there is a family in Lahore who used to get selected in the past”. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave this statement while talking to the media after meeting with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq in Lahore.
Similarly, sources and media reports said Zardari during the meeting asked Nawaz to return to Pakistan before the joint opposition could go with the nuclear option of resigning from the assemblies in order to mount pressure on the PTI-led government.
The crucial session of the PDM was held amid divisions within the alliance over the issue of submitting resignations from the assemblies at a time when its planned long march was just two weeks away.
Zardari, who like Nawaz addressed the meeting virtually, reportedly told the PML-N chief: “Mian sahab, we will hand over the resignations to you when you return home.”
Nawaz has been living in London since November 2019 after he was allowed to leave the country for medical treatment.
Zardari further said if Nawaz wanted the opposition parties to resign en masse, “then not only us, but everyone will have to go to jail”.
Read more: Maryam Nawaz calls PMLN ‘ineligible’ and ‘incompetent’ on Twitter
Talking about this month’s hotly contested Senate elections, Zardari said the opposition parties had challenged the government in the polls but regretted that PML-N Senator-elect Ishaq Dar, who is living in the UK in self-exile, had not participated in the voting, according to reports.
“Nawaz Sharif sahib, return to the country along with Ishaq Dar; we will fight together,” the PPP leader was quoted as saying during the meeting.