PDM’s victory in Senate, Punjab to make system unworkable
Who will be the next chairman/ deputy chairman of the reconstituted 100-member Senate?
This will become clear on Friday (March 12) when the election for these posts is scheduled to be held.
PDM has nominated Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani for the top slot while the PTI-led coalition is supporting Balochistan’s Sadiq Sanjrani, the incumbent chairman.
Both sides are trying their best to defeat their rival candidates. Barring some miracle at the hands of invisible hands (which can never be ruled out in the Islamic republic), the PDM should carry the day because of the opposition parties’ numerical superiority in the upper house of parliament.
At present, the PDM has 53 Senators while the PTI-led coalition has 47.
This means PDM’s Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, who is a former prime minister and former NA speaker, is expected to win the crown.
However, the PTI is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to have him disqualified from the court and at the same time have his notification held by the Election Commission.
Because of the PDM’s numerical strength in the house, the alliance’s nominee for the deputy chairman should also win.
And this outcome will make the system completely dysfunctional and destroy whatever is left of the national economy after the 30-month PTI rule. Already the GDP growth rate has plummeted and in case the political situation remains unstable the chances of its revival are remote.
The role of the Senate chairman is very important. Using his powers he will be able to block the government’s moves because of the opposition’s majority in the upper house. Hence, whatever is passed by the National Assembly and referred to the Senate, can be rejected, blocked, delayed or sent to the 'cold storage'.
Such a situation will land the government in a very awkward position.
The government can, nevertheless, neutralize the Senate by referring any matter passed by the National Assembly to a joint session of parliament to benefit from its numerical strength there. Despite the availability of this alternative constitutional course it will not be easy for the government to use it every now and then.
The ‘agony’ of Gilani’s incumbency will also be felt when President Alvi has a plan to undertake a foreign visit.
Under the Constitution, it is the Senate chairman who has to act as the head of state during the president’s absence. And opposition’s man can cause the government serious embarrassment by passing any order – even if it against the government’s policy.
Such a ‘catastrophe’ can be averted only if the president avoids undertaking any foreign visit or by making the Senate chairman unavailable by whatever means. In that case, it will be the National Assembly speaker (The ruling party man) who will perform the president’s role.
The complexity of the present situation will grow manifold in case the PDM also decides to oust Mr Usman Buzdar as Punjab chief minister through a no-confidence motion.
(In the Punjab Assembly the PTI has 181 seats, its ally PML-Q has 10) The PML-N has 166 seats, PPP seven). There are also some independents and smaller parties that are not in a position to play any significant role in the numbers game).
Incidentally, Buzdar comes from South Punjab, the region the opposition parties want to give the status of a province.
Since the opposition parties don’t have the required numerical strength in the 372-member Punjab Assembly, the ouster of Mr Buzdar, who also enjoys the prime minister’s confidence, through fair means will not be possible.
(According to some reports Law Minister Raja Basharat is also being considered for the post of Punjab chief executive).
It is not clear so far who will be the opposition’s candidate for the office of the chief minister, although as a matter of principle it should be Hamza Shehbaz, the leader of the opposition in the house.
But, released on bail by the Lahore High Court a few days ago, Hamza faces a number of cases and will not be qualified for the coveted office unless acquitted.
But, hypothetically speaking, the opposition alliance must let the nation know how the system will work with its government in Punjab and the federal government being led by the PTI.
Already a PPP-government is in Sindh which has locked horns with the federal government. The two sides continue to trade accusations almost every day as a result of which the performance of the Sindh government is not what it should be.
With a new setup in place in Punjab, the confrontation between the centre and rival provincial governments will shoot up, making it impossible for both sides to focus on the solution of people’s countless problems.
It is to be seen how the ‘visionary’ leaders of the ruling coalition and the opposition alliance run the country in the times ahead.