Ruling alliance wins top Senate slots amid PTI boycott, noisy protest

PPP’s Yousuf Raza Gillani, PML-N’s Syedal Nasar elected unopposed as chairman, deputy n 41 out of 43 newly-elected Senators take oath

ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) leader Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s nominee Syedal Khan Nasar were elected unopposed as Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Senate respectively as no other nomination papers were filed by the Opposition parties to challenge their candidature.

Gillani and Nasar were the joint candidates of the ruling alliance, whereas the Sunni Tehreek/Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had boycotted the elections over delaying elections on senate seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) stating that the House was incomplete sans the members from KP.

Senator Ishaq Dar announced Senator Yusuf Raza Gillani as Chairman Senate amid ruckus from the galleries. Senator Gillani was ushered by the presiding officer to the dais to take his oath of the Chairman Senate. Presiding Officer Ishaq Dar administered oath from the unopposed elected Chairman Senate.

After assuming his charge, Chairman Senate Yusuf Raza Gillani made his maiden remarks to the House and wished Eid greetings to the Senators. He expressed his gratitude to Allah Almighty for conferring him with the honour and also to his party and alliance parties of PML-N, MQM, BNP, NP, PML-Q, JUI-F and independent candidates who reposed their trust in him. “This is indeed an honour and enormous responsibility to lead Senate that represents unity and diversity of the nation and symbolizes equality,” he added. “We will succeed in returning Senate to its glory as a powerful house of the federation. I will not compromise on the dignity of this house and its members,” he said.

He later announced the candidature of Deputy Chairman Senate, stating, “The nomination of Senator Syedal Khan Nasar has been received that was proposed by Senators Azam Nazeer Tarar and Sherry Rehman and his nomination papers were in order and since one nomination was received so Syedal Nasar is declared unopposed Deputy Chairman Senate.” He ushered him to the dais to take his oath as the Deputy Chairman Senate. The Chair announced the ruling for independent members to join either treasury or opposition within in seven days from today till April 15th and give their application in writing to the Secretary Senate. However, an independent member who would not give his or her trust would be barred from supporting any opposition legislative decision.

He prorogued the session while reading the order sent by the President. However, a prayer for the security forces’ martyrs of various terrorist attacks was offered led by Senator Maulana Atta ur Rehman.  

Presiding Officer Ishaq Dar while expressing vote of thanks extended his felicitations on behalf of the House to the Chairman Senate. He also assured the Chair his full support and trust in all the legislative endeavours.

Maulana Atta ur Rehman extended his felicitations to the newly elected Chair and urged him to give attention to the matter pertaining to no election of senate seats in KP.

Gillani is the second Senate chairman to have been elected unopposed after his party’s Raza Rabbani who was elected unopposed in March 2015 being a unanimous nominee of then government and opposition.

With the election of two top slots of the upper house of the parliament, the Senate now has become fully functional after remaining dysfunctional for around a month due to delay in the general elections.

The Senate hall echoed with the slogans of “long live Bhutto” “(President) Zardari prevailed all”  and “Gilani; the symbol of federation” raised by PPP diehard workers while sitting in the visitors’ galleries soon after Gilani was elected chairman Senate.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) strongly protested in the house over the election of Senate chairman and deputy chairman from an incomplete house. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had postponed the Senate election on 11 seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) due to a controversy surrounding delay in administration of oath to the members of the provincial assembly elected against reserved seats.

PTI senators gathered in front of the main dais of chairman Senate and raised slogans of “mandate thieves” and “who will save Pakistan: Imran Khan, Imran Khan.” PTI Senator Falak Naz Chitrali was holding a portrait of Imran Khan in her hands while she raised slogans. Soon after this, the opposition party staged a protest walkout from the house.

Chairman Senate became emotional by remembering the hanging of former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and underlined that the Supreme Court recently admitted this “historical injustice”.

 He went on to say that the crisis of Pakistan was deep at the present moment. “Pakistan faces an assault of those who seek to divide and polarize us, those who seek to incite hatred, those who seek to replace norms of civility and abuse democracy and demagoguery,” he said. He added  that his party has always rejected politics of hate and preferred politics of reconciliation and welfare of the people.

Earlier in the day, 41 senators out of 43 newly elected senators took oath of their six-year term amid noisy protest of PTI. Later, legislators signed the roll of members one by one. Senators-elect Maulana Abdul Wasay and Faisal Vawda couldn’t take oath as they were absent from the sitting.

After this, the presiding officer announced the schedule for election for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman.

At the outset of the special session, PTI said that the sitting summoned for the election of chairman and deputy chairman was unconstitutional because the 96-member house was incomplete due to the postponement of the Senate election on 11 seats from KP. The party demanded that the session for election of two high positions should be postponed till the house is completed and Senate elections are held in KP. At present, the house has 85 members.

The parliamentary leader of PTI in the house Senator Ali Zafar speaking on a point of order referred to Article 59 and 60 of the constitution and said that the election of two slots could not be held when the house has not been “duly constituted” and all senators elected from four provinces didn’t take oath. “Senate is the house of federation having equal representation of all federating units and this election without complete representation of a province would be tantamount to damaging the face of the federation,” he added.

Senator Ali Zafar urged the presiding officer to think above party lines as legitimacy of this election would remain under question. He also announced that PTI would not become part of this “unconstitutional” process.

PT Senator Mohsin Aziz also followed suit and said that this would cause a “dirty” scar on the people of KP and urged the chair to adjourn the session without holding an election. He added that KP being a federating unit had been serving as a shield to protect the country and the election without its full representation was “unconstitutional and void.”

Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the assertions of PTI on the election and referring to Article 53 of the constitution said that the word “duly constituted” has not been used for the National Assembly. The Senate was not in existence when the constitution of 1973 was formed — a reason that the word “duly constituted” was used for the upper house only, he said and added that this condition did not apply at the moment.

“The election of the Senate in KP was not postponed due to some natural disaster like floods,” the law minister said, adding that the ECP was forced to do so because speaker KP Assembly did not administer oaths from the members elected on reserved seats despite a court order.

Quoting a precedent, he said that the Senate chairman and deputy chairman elections were held in March 2015 in the absence of members from formerly Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where elections were delayed. The Article 67 of the constitution says that proceedings of the house could not be stopped due to creation of some vacancy, he also said.

“The house is complete for constitutional purposes,” he said and requested the presiding officer to proceed further. On this, Presiding Officer Dar overruled the objection of the PTI by saying that he was doing this in the light of explanation given by the law minister and the provisions of the constitution.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt