Days after the main opposition parties – PPP and PTI – succeeded in electing the Senate chairman and deputy chairman with the joint effort, they are now competing against each other to grab the slot of the opposition leader in the upper house.
The PPP on Wednesday announced nomination of Sherry Rehman for the slot of the opposition leader that fell vacant after the retirement of Aitzaz Ahsan on March 12.
The PTI has yet to make a formal announcement of its candidate but insiders claim that Azam Swati’s name has been finalised by the party.
Once again, a group of independent opposition senators from Fata and Balochistan attain a significant role in filling out this important position and both parties have been trying to muster their support.
The PPP and the PTI have made informal contacts with the other opposition parties to get their support. Whoever gets the signatures of the majority of the opposition senators will be appointed as the opposition leader.
The PPP thinks that being the single largest opposition party in the house with 20 elected senators, it has the right to be considered on priority for the slot. However, PTI leadership is of the opinion that the party unconditionally supported the PPP’s nominated candidate for the deputy chairman slot, therefore, the PPP should return the favour by accepting its candidate as the opposition leader.
“In the elections of Senate chairman and deputy chairman, independent senators and PPP have got their due share and it became only possible due to support of the PTI. Moral authority demands that all of them now should support unconditionally PTI’s nominee for the opposition leader without entering into any competition,” said a PTI senator.
He claimed that the PTI so far had the support of 33 opposition senators, including those from the MQM, the JI and the ANP. He hoped that the PTI would be able to garner signatures of 33 senators in support of its candidate.
According to the Senate rules, the Chairman declares a member as the leader of the opposition, who has the support of majority opposition members.
In the current scenario, opposition senators from PPP, PTI, MQM-P, JI, ANP, six independent senators from Fata and seven from Balochistan have their opinion in the election of the opposition leader.
In case of competition among the opposition parties, the parties will submit their respective applications [nomination papers] to the Chairman, bearing signatures of the opposition senators endorsing the nomination of a candidate. The party that gets majority of signatures in favour gets the post.
The PPP has not only announced its candidate but according to insiders the party has started receiving signatures from the opposition senators in her favour. An MQM-P senator is also stated to be among the 21 senators who have so far signed on application supporting Rehman’s nomination.
A PTI senator, while speaking on condition of anonymity, strongly criticised the PPP for unilaterally announcing its candidate. “It’s tantamount to creating split among the joint opposition that unanimously voted in favour of the PPP’s deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala recently,” he said.
The PTI leader said that his party had also conveyed its reservations to the PPP through an informal contact. “PTI will soon approach PPP to request it to withdraw its candidate in favour of PTI’s candidate in a bid to give a message of unity among opposition,” he claimed.
He said that the JI and independent senators from Fata have already announced their support for the PTI candidate and soon official announcements would be made. He was hopeful that 33 opposition senators would sign in favour of Azam Swati if the PPP contested the election.
While announcing nomination of Sherry Rehman, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said: “The PPP is ready to make history again. We nominate Senator Sherry Rehman for the position of Leader of Opposition. She will be the first woman (in country’s history) to lead the opposition in the senate.”