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Pakistani Opposition Cries Foul After Losing Bid To Oust Senate Chairman

FILE: Maryam Nawaz (C), daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, talks to journalists after appearing before an investigation team in Islamabad on July 5.
FILE: Maryam Nawaz (C), daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, talks to journalists after appearing before an investigation team in Islamabad on July 5.

Opposition politicians in Pakistan are outraged over losing a no-confidence motion against the head of the Senate or upper house of Pakistani Parliament.

They are questioning how they lost a secret ballot after demonstrating that they had the support of an overwhelming majority in the 104-member house.

Early in the afternoon on August 1, 64 opposition senators backed a resolution to remove current Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani through a no-confidence vote.

But the results of the secret ballot a couple hours later shocked the opposition. They had secured just 50 votes out of a total of 100 polled votes while they needed at least 53 to oust Sanjrani. Five ballots were canceled while 45 votes were polled against the no-confidence motion.

“[The opposition] with 65 votes lost while the government with 36 votes won,” Maryam Nawaz, a key opposition leader and daughter of the jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tweeted. Indeed, six opposition parties are represented by 65 lawmakers in the Senate. With 30 member’s Nawaz’s Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is the largest party in the house while Pakistan Peoples Party is second with 21 senators.

“[Fellow] Pakistanis, now you know how the election in 2018 was won,” she added in a reference to opposition claims that the country’s powerful military rigged last year’s parliamentary election to favor Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) political party. The PTI only has 14 members in the upper house. Its coalition with independents and smaller parties gives it the combined strength of 36.

“Today, conscience has been sold, [and it is] a dark day for democracy,” said opposition leader and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif.

The ruling PTI, however, was elated. “Opposition senators have voted for the chairman Senate on the call of their conscience,” PTI Senator Shibli Faraz, leader of treasury benches in the Senate, told journalists after the vote. “There was no pressure [on opposition lawmakers] whatsoever from the government.”

But opposition parties held a meeting to identify turncoats within its ranks and counter the government’s gloating over the win.

“What are they [the government] celebrating? Democracy was murdered today,” PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told reporters after the opposition meeting. “The Senate was attacked today. Everybody saw today that 64 senators backed our no-confidence move, but the results were later changed in the secret ballot.”

Pakistan’s four provincial legislatures and the National Assembly or lower house of the country’s parliament elects senators for a six-year term. The upper house gives equal representation to all of Pakistan’s four provinces and its constitutional role claims to be centered on the “promotion of national cohesion and harmony.”

– With reporting by Anadolu news agency

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