Battle lines drawn for no-confidence motion against Senate chief

Battle lines drawn for no-confidence motion against Senate chief

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties face an epic challenge to ensure that all of their senators vote for their no-confidence resolution against Sadiq Sanjrani as they are confronted with mighty rivals.

When little-known politician from Chagai Sanjrani was elected chairman in March 2018, there were some defections from the PML-N that enabled him to win as per the plan of his backers. The PML-N had later formed a committee to identity the deserters and proceed against them, but it discarded the exercise half way for unexplained reasons.

Since it was a secret ballot, it was not easy to recognise the defectors from any party. A similar vote would be held this time.

Sanjrani is the first-ever chairman from Balochistan. However, there had been quite a few deputy chairmen from his province. The combined opposition has now fielded Hasil Bizenjo as its candidate in the election for chairman, who also hails from Balochistan. Whether or not Sanjrani is overthrown, the office will remain with this federating unit.

According to the Senate record, the opposition parties have a dominant numerical strength enjoying the support of over 65 senators, who are more than the required number, 53, for the success of the move to oust Sanjrani. However, the question is whether or not they will be in a position to get all of their votes.

Battle lines are clearly drawn. Major parliamentary forces like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have sponsored the no-trust motion. It is backed by the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), National Party (NP) and Awami National Party (ANP).

On the other hand, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and PML-Functional have teamed up to defeat the no-confidence motion. A majority of tribal senators and some independents are likely to stand with them.

Only Jamaat-e-Islami, which has two votes, is undecided about its position – whether to vote for or against the no-trust resolution. However, its abstention will benefit those opposing the motion. Previously, it supported the PML-N and its allies’ candidate against Sanjrani.

Earlier, Sanjrani was backed by the PTI, PPP, MQM-P, tribal senators and independents from Balochistan. Now, he is deprived of the support of the PPP, which is in the forefront in efforts to remove him.

Last time, Sanjrani had secured 57 votes while senior PML-N Leader Raja Zafarul Haq had bagged 46 ballots. The margin of victory was a surprise to many, with observers having predicted a much closer race than an 11-vote gap.

In the election for the deputy chairman, Saleem Mandviwalla of PPP had clinched 54 votes while his opponent Usman Kakar of PkMAP had got 44 ballots. The MQM-P had abstained. The 104-member Upper House of Parliament has 103 senators with one seat (of Ishaq Dar) being in controversy.

Immediately after Sanjrani and Mandviwalla were elected, slogans were chanted praising PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari because it was only due to his support that they routed their challengers.

At the time, the PML-N and its allies were in government and their nominees had suffered defeats. The political environment was as highly charged as it was now. Rather, it has become more toxic.

Sanjrani has been in office for 16 months. If he was voted out and Hasil Bizenjo was elected, the latter will have 20 months to serve the remaining time of the three-year tenure of the office.

Parliamentary watchers say that during his incumbency, soft-spoken Sanjrani has conducted himself well, struggling hard to be nonpartisan. More than once, he snubbed certain ministers, who tried to create interruptions in the proceedings. At one point, he asked a cabinet member to leave the House when the minister did not pay need to his orders of maintaining decorum.

Over the past one year, the Senate like the National Assembly has hardly transacted any meaningful legislative business, and has been acting just like a debating club. Bipartisan approach is missing due to the increasing political confrontation.