News Analysis |
The Senate chairman Raza Rabbani gave his farewell speech on Friday and hinted that he might not take an oath as a senator on 12th March. Rabbani held back his 70-page ruling on the trichotomy of powers relating to the present situation regarding the clash of institutions. He said that he will release the statement on 12th March if he takes the oath. The ‘if’ shows that Rabbani might not be taking the oath even after winning the Senate elections again from Sindh on 3rd March on Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) nomination.
A rift within the PPP became public when Chairman Asif Ali Zardari held a joint press conference with Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazl-ul Rehman regarding the Senate elections. He announced that the PPP will not nominate Raza Rabbani as the senate chairman as he didn’t take enough steps to prevent the constitutional violations of former premier Nawaz Sharif. Zardari stated that the candidate for senate chairman will be decided after consultations with all allies. He further accused him of ignoring the reservations on the 18th Amendment.
Following Zardari’s accusations, media reports started circulating that Rabbani will not take oath as a senator because of his differences with the PPP chairman. The speculations were confirmed in his farewell address. Rabbani talked about institutional clashes in detail in his farewell speech. He told the Senate he held consultations with former and incumbent chief justices Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Mian Saqib Nisar on Article 175-A of the Constitution regarding role of parliamentary committees in the appointment of judges.
Rabbani iterated that the institutions shouldn’t interfere with each other’s power and all of them should be allowed to operate in an independent manner. He talked about the role of army in politics, explaining that since they are stakeholders in the political landscape, their role should be acknowledged. The Senate Chairman criticized the role of the executive in parliamentary matters and recommended revoking Article 89 of the constitution since it allows the executive to enact ordinances without the parliament’s consultation.
PPP co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also paid a visit to Raza Rabbani on Friday. He made the visit in an attempt to appease the disgruntled party leader and convince him to take an oath as a senator on 12th March. Bilawal reportedly offered him the position of opposition leader since he could not convince his father to accept Rabbani as the chairman once again. There are reportedly two groups within the PPP, one who supports Rabbani as the chairman and one who doesn’t. Bilawal is the leader of the group who supports Rabbani.
As the senators are getting ready to take oath; the two major parties: PML-N and PPP are trying their best to win the support of smaller parties to vote for their candidate as the Senate chairman. Currently, PML-N has the highest number of seats in the Senate with 33 senators but 2 of their senators have been barred from taking oath on the issue of dual nationalities. The eligibility of another PML-N candidate, Ishaq Dar, has been challenged in the Supreme Court (SC) for being a fugitive from law.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has announced his support for the independent senators from Balochistan and FATA for the slots of chairman and deputy chairman on Friday. This will put both the PML-N and PPP in trouble. PTI currently has 12 senators, with the 8 independents from Balochistan and some from FATA, they will create a third group in the Senate elections. Imran Khan has firmly asserted that his party will not support anyone from the PML-N and PPP.
Some media reports had suggested that Imran Khan made a clandestine pact with the PPP leadership to prevent the PML-N from ruling the Senate. PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Rana Sanaullah had accused Khan of selling his senators to the PPP through the Baloch senators but PTI buried all those speculations on Friday in their press conference. PPP also has limited options left with Rabbani out of the equation.
Raza Rabbani is considered as one of the most influential chairman since the enactment of the 1973 constitution with the second highest number of rulings on many important matters. The clash between Rabbani and Zardari is reportedly over failure to follow orders, Rabbani made several decisions and statements which the Zardari family later disowned, claiming them to be his personal views. Rabbani enjoys popular support among all parties with the Jamat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq openly endorsing his chairmanship.
Even though PPP is considered to be the biggest winner in the Senate elections after bagging 12 seats, much more than their representation in the constituent assemblies, some political experts believe that they may fall victim to the same mind-set that resulted in the monumental failure of MQM-P in the senate elections. If the PPP leadership fails to agree on a candidate for the chairmanship, it might result in a split within the PPP ranks and their hopes of winning the chairmanship again will be lost for good.