Senate in a shambles?


I t’s a déjà vu for the opposition as the wafer-thin treasury managed to steal the show once again. Former PM Yousaf Raza Gillani took the flak quite humbly, as he stepped down as the leader of the opposition. This is likely to roll many heads in days to come, and will draw new lines of apolitical engagement on the floor of the house. The fact that the opposition despite being in majority in the 100-member Senate was repeatedly made to bite the dust indicates realpolitik, and the uneasy decorum of loyalty in vogue. Ours is not a bipartisan society even when it comes to national interests. This is why votes are perfectly ordained on party lines, and any miscalculation goes around with conspiracy theories.

The government on Friday narrowly got a crucial bill, on SBP autonomy, passed from the upper house. This has left the opposition not only baffled but also highly embarrassed. Almost eight Senators’ absence on the fateful day enabled the PTI members to bulldoze the piece of legislation with a single vote. It inadvertently hints at unrest, and a sort of dissent, in the rank and file of the opposition who are not petty content with their leadership, respectively. Gillani has thrown a roulette by resigning, and the silence of the lambs on both flanks of the opposition is quite meaningful. And this is what a shrewd and experience Gillani has brought to the fore. The ex-PM has sought a rejoinder from stalwarts in his own party, who reportedly were not too happy on his election to the upper house!

Such episodes of floor-crossing and abstentions are not uncommon in parliamentary democracy. Legislators often take a line of action as per their conscience if they feel that a particular issue is more important than toeing the party’s dictation. A case in point is Senator Dilawar Khan’s group of six who have voted on both sides to this day. This time too, they say, they were convinced with the debriefing from the Finance Minister, and took a pro-treasury stance. Let that be the case on the partisan side, too. No point in doubting legislators’ loyalty, and making them a pariah. It’s high time issue-based politics reigned supreme. The upper house, especially, which speaks for the Federation should be nonpartisan when it comes to national interests

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