Debate on Opp leader continues in Senate | Pakistan Today

Debate on Opp leader continues in Senate

Continuing their debate on the contentious appointment of the Senate opposition leader on Friday, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Senators SM Zafar and Wasim Sajjad argued that the appointment of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to the post was in accordance with the constitution, whereas Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan said it was unconstitutional and against parliamentary norms.
Moving his arguments of the previous day further, Senator Zafar said the dissident senators of the PML-Q, who had opted for opposition benches after the alliance between the Pakistan People’s Party and the PML-Q, could not be considered a different entity from their main party.
Replying to Senator Professor Khurshid’s reference to the Indian constitution, Zafar said that the reference could be considered in case of a merger between the PPP and the PML-Q, which had not happened, adding that even in case of a merger Khurshid’s argument was invalid because there was no provision in the Constitution of Pakistan that recognised dissidents as an entity independent of their main party.
Zafar said that the reference pertained to Rajiha Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, where a lot of people belonging to small parties became members of the House and the word “recognition” was used there only for parties that could maintain quorum in the House. “In the Indian Upper House, only those parties are recognised which can maintain quorum individually and those which can’t do so are not recognised as parties. Such parties are also not allowed to field their candidate for the leader of the opposition in the House and it is because of the principle of ‘recognition’,” Zafar said, adding that important seats and special privileges such as offices and staff were given only to leaders of the recognised political parties.
Talking about the legal position of senators from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Senator Zafar said they were not elected on the basis of political affiliation as the Political Parties Order did not apply to FATA. Refering to the proviso of Article 51 and Article 6(b), Zafar said that all independent candidates were given three days to become part of political parties but that could not be applied to FATA candidates because that area was immune to the clause by virtue of the fact that the Political Parties Order was not applicable to the region. “So FATA members, whom no one can recognise on the basis of political parties because of the Political Parties Order 2002 as applied in the settled areas, retain their independence,” Zafar argued, insisting that they had the right to vote in the House on all issues. He also said that depriving FATA members of their right to vote would be unjustified. He also said FATA members were elected on the basis of a “free vote”, which meant they were neither elected on party basis nor on any symbol of any party. “Free vote means FATA senators are above the regime that governs the political parties, so they do not have any political affiliation and remain independent,” Zafar said, adding that they had given their vote to Haideri because they had been elected on the basis of free vote. “According to the constitution, leader of opposition is a member of the House who in the opinion of the chairman has the majority of the opposition members, and the definition of the word “opinion” is a judgement not necessarily based on facts, nor necessarily proven or to be proved,” Zafar said, referring to the constitution and the Oxford Dictionary to substantiate his arguments.
He also said that a member, after becoming leader of the opposition, ceased to be a member of a particular party and became the leader of the entire opposition as was the case with the office of the prime minister, who became the leader of the entire country regardless of political affiliation. He also added that now the appointment of Haideri could not be reviewed as there was no legal or constitutional provision available for that.
He said further that he had been told that the chairman had allotted seats to the PML-Q dissident senators as there were no seats available on the treasury side. Senator Wasim Sajjad argued that four important offices, that of Senate chairman, deputy chairman, leader of the house and leader of the opposition, were directly connected with functions of the Senate. He said that chairman and deputy chairman were elected by a secret vote but the matter of the leader of the House and the leader of the opposition was left to the discretion of the prime minister and the Senate chairman respectively.
He said it was done by design, otherwise all the offices could have been filled by secret voting. He also said that it was the opinion of the chairman and the word opinion meant “assessment short of proof”, so the House had to surrender to the opinion of the chair, which was its legal right given in the constitution. He said the chairman should not use his discretion to shake the foundations of a party as the parliamentary system based on political parties would too feel the jolts. He said that actions to weaken political parties provided reasons for martial law in the country.
PML-Q dissident Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan said that disagreements within the party were an internal matter of the PML-Q and had nothing to do with the chairman. The party chief could take action against those who differed with him but the chairman had no right to deprive the dissidents from their right to vote. He said if some parties brought a member with consensus, and after consultation, for the opposition leader slot, the chairman could not follow the principle of the largest party because the JUI-F was no longer the largest party in the House.

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