Opposition stages walkout from Senate over Haideri nomination

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Opposition parties on Tuesday staged a walkout from the Senate session debating the budget, demanding reversal of Chairman Farook Naik’s decision of nominating JUI-F’s Abdul Ghafoor Haideri as leader of the opposition in the Upper House. Immediately after the Senate session proceedings began, Senator Naeem Chattha took the floor and said he and some of his colleagues had been deprived of the right to vote in electing the leader of the opposition which was unjustifiable and denial of democracy.
Later, PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar decrying the Haideri’s notification as the opposition leader claimed that he could win the election if votes of independent members sitting on treasury benches were not taken into account. He said application submitted by his party for the slot of leader of the opposition in the Senate had names of 24 members, whereas JUI-F’s application had the support of 13 members. He said per the list of the Senate, 11 members were independent candidates with nine of them having alliance with the government and two with the JUI-F. He added that Senator Wali Badini had announced joining the PPP in 2010. Dar said Senate Chairman Naik also favoured Haideri.
The PML-N senator also said per the rules, nine independent candidates could not exercise their right to vote while remaining independent in choosing the leader of the opposition. He said Senate members could vote against the desire of their political party and the constitution did not bar them from doing so. JI Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed said independent candidates could not vote unless they become part of the treasury benches or the opposition. He was of the opinion that nine members could not be deprived of their right of vote on the basis of Shujaat Hussain’s letter.
Senator Haumayon Mandokhel said he was an independent candidate and was not part of the government.
Later, Raja Zafarul Haq took the floor announcing to walk out of the session until the withdrawal of Haideri’s notification. He also asked the chairman of the Senate to review his decision. All opposition parties, excluding the JUI-F, walked out from the session and did not return until the House was adjourned. Speaking regarding the split in the PML-Q, the chairman conceded that PML-Q senators Tariq Azeem, Naeem Chatta, Jamal Leghari and Javed Ali Shah wrote a letter to him, asking for their seats on the opposition benches despite the fact that their party had joined the government.
Naik said five members of the PML-Q made a separate group in the Senate, but their votes could not be considered as of the opposition after their party joined the government. Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan said according to the constitution, they could not be deprived of their right to vote despite of difference with party leadership. He said the party could give them show-cause notices but it had nothing to do with chairman of the Senate as it was the party’s internal issue.
JUI-F’s Azam Swati said precedents existed that single largest party was given the slot of the leader of opposition. He said Raza Rabbani was made leader of the opposition despite having the support of six members because the PPP was the single largest opposition party in the last house. Senator SM Zafar said the chairman of the Senate could not split the party and he had to count them either in the opposition or in the government. He said when PML-Q had joined the government, all their members had to be reckoned with as treasury members. He also said if any one disagreed, he or she should risk the defection clause. JUI-F Senator Haji Ghulam Ali said the chairman’s decision was right as he decided the matter on the basis of party affiliation. He said his party wanted unity among all opposition parties. The chairman referred the budget to the standing committee concerned for making recommendations and allowed to debate the issue.