PPP, PML-N vow to identify, act against ‘defectors’

By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: A day after the no-trust vote fiasco in the Senate, two mainstream opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party — have vowed to identify and act against the ‘defectors’ responsible for the failure.

Chairing a meeting of the party senators here on Friday, PML-N president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said strict action would be taken against the senators who sold out their conscience.

A participant in the meeting told media that Mr Sharif, while expressing his concern over what happened on Thursday, said strict action would be taken against those who undermined democracy. He regretted that as many as 14 opposition senators joined hands with the government to ruin the Senate’s sanctity and their own dignity. “The opposition will come together to prepare an action plan over the matter,” he said.

Official said Senator Musadik Malik suggested that all PML-N senators be asked to submit their resignations, but the idea was rejected by Shahbaz Sharif.

Senator retired Gen Abdul Qayyum described the opposition senators who had either voted for Sadiq Sanjrani or deliberately wasted their votes as cowards and backstabbers. He regretted that a list of possible ‘defectors’ circulating on social media also included his name and offered his resignation to the party chief.

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Senator Mushahidullah Khan said some people had turned parliament into a marketplace.

PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb were also present.

“A total of 100 senators were present in the session yesterday [Thursday]. When the stand-up vote was taken on the motion seeking leave to move the no-trust resolution, 64 opposition senators rose in their seats.

“If it is a question of one’s conscience having awoken [in the secret ballot], it is strange that it was asleep until that point,” said the PML-N senator.

“Yesterday was a repeat of when the mandate was stolen in 2018,” he said, adding: “We are investigating how many billions of rupees were doled out.”

Mr Khan also sought to “clarify that the party’s own members involved in the debacle were minimal in number”.

Ahsan Iqbal said the opposition would bring legislation to amend Senate election rules, including “show of hands”, and a decision in this regard would be taken at a multiparty conference to be convened shortly. He said Aug 1 would be remembered as a dark day for the democracy.

“The degree of horse-trading that took place in the Senate is not even witnessed in the union council [elections]. If in the upper house [of parliament], 22 per cent members sell their souls out, there is no bigger disgrace than this,” Mr Iqbal said, adding that the PML-N had taken notice of Thursday’s deed and investigations were under way.

Fact-finding committee

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also constituted a five-member committee on Friday to ascertain the role of party senators in the voting on no-confidence motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and related matters.

Members of the fact-finding committee include former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, former Senate chairman Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Sindh minister and former senator Saeed Ghani, former deputy chairman of the Senate Sabir Baloch and PPP secretary general and former senator Farhatullah Babar. The committee will also make recommendations about the resignations already submitted by the PPP senators to the chairman.

Fake lists

In a related development, PPP leader and chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior Rehman Malik has taken notice of speculative lists of opposition senators suspected to be those who voted against party line during the no-trust move against Mr Sanjrani.

Senator Malik has asked the Federal Investigation Agency and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to trace the origin of fake lists defaming the senators.