Published in The Nation newspaper on 13-Mar-2012
ISLAMABAD – PPP’s Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokahri and Sabir Baloch were elected unopposed chairman and deputy chairman of senate respectively, after 54 newly-elected senators took oath on Monday.
The opposition parties did not field their candidates against the top senate slots of the 104-member upper house of the parliament, a step appreciated by the veteran legislators from treasury benches who said such practices help strengthen democratic institutions.
At the outset of the inaugural session of new parliamentary year, Senate Secretary Iftikharullah Babar welcomed the senators. Senator Afrasyab Khattak of Awami National Party (ANP), who was nominated by President Asif Ali Zardari as presiding officer for the session, administered oath to 54 new senators.
Amid continuous sloganeering of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Jiyalas during the oath-taking ceremony, Senator Zafar Ali Shah of PML-N staged a walkout from the house saying that chanting party slogans in the house was a sheer violation of parliamentary norms and senate rules. However, Zafar Shah’s protest could not stop PPP diehards from sloganeering, which went on with intervals until the election of deputy chairman senate.
The visitors’ galleries of the upper house were packed with supports and guests of the new senators and majority of them belonged to PPP. The slogans in support of PPP and its leadership did not go well with senators from other political parties as well, and some of them also raised voice against it. PPP chief whip in house Islamuddin Sheik requested several times the visitors to maintain order and stop chanting slogans but they turned a deaf ear to his requests.
After oath taking of new senators, the opposition parties held a meeting and it was consensus view that as a goodwill gesture they would not field candidates for the slots of chairman and deputy chairman. Ignoring the concern and opposition by the JUI-F, the opposition parties also decided the name of Senator Ishaq Dar for the post of Leader of Opposition in the Senate during that meeting.
Chairman-elect Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari was administered oath of his office by presiding officer Senator Afrasyab Khattak, and the new chairman then administered oath of deputy chairman to Sabir Baloch.
For the first time, under the 18th amendment, four minorities’ senators have also been elected from the four provinces – raising the total strength of the 100-member house to 104. The new senators have been elected for a six-year term.
Among the newly-elected senators Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh was the first and Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa was the last member to sign the roll of members. The oath-taking ceremony was attended by senior politicians, parliamentarians and people belonging to different walks of life.
Those who took oath are: Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Mufti Abdul Sattar, Ahmad Hassan, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Amar Jeet, Baz Muhammad Khan, Farhatullah Babar, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Muhammad Hasni, Hafiz Hamdullah Suboor, M Hamza, Hari Ram, Heman Das, Hidayatullah, Hilalur Rehman, Ilyas Ahmed Bilour, Mir Israrullah Zehri, Kamil Ali Agha, Kamrtan Michael, Karim Ahmed Khawaja, Khalida Perveen, Ishaq Dar, Mudassar Sehar Kamran, Azam Khan Hoti, Daud Khan Achakzai Advocate, Dr Muhammad Froigh Naseem, Mohsin Khan Leghari, Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana, Muhammad Saleh Shah, Talha Mahmood, Muhammad Yousaf, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, Mukhtar Ahmed Dhamra, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Syed Mustafa Kamal, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Malik Najamul Hassan, Naseema Ehsan, Nasreen Jalil, Nisar Muhammad, Nuzhat Sadiq, Osman Saifullah Khan, Mian Raza Rabbani, Mrs Robina Irfan, Rozi Khan Kakar, Robina Khalid, Saeed Ghani, Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel, Haji Saifullah Khan Bangash, Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, Shai Syed, Col. Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Zaheer-ud-Din Babar Awan, Mrs Zahida Khan and Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa.
The PPP has emerged majority party in the upper house with 41 seats, followed by PML-N, 14, ANP, 12, JUI-F and MQM, seven seats each, PML-Q, five, BNP-A, four, and National Party and PML-F, one seat each, in the house of 104.
In the inaugural session of the Parliamentary New Year, the senators across the aisle voiced grave concerns over the Balochistan imbroglio and called for concrete steps on war-footing to ameliorate the suffering of the Baloch by engaging the nationalists and separatists in dialogue and by curtailing the role of spy agencies in the affairs of the province.
Mushahid Hussain Syed said if negotiations could be held with India on different issues, why the process of dialogue could not be initiated with Bloch people. He said no institution of the country was above law. “The practice of abductions, killings and dumping should end now.”
Senator Mir Hasil Bazinju said people were looking towards the parliament and this august house for addressing host of problems being faced by them. “Can this house take back the powers of devising country’s foreign policy from GHQ? Can this house play its role to end the political wing of country’s spy agency?” Mir questioned.
Aitizaz Ahsan said that the temperament of the state functionaries has to be changed now, as here people holding power think themselves above law. Aitizaz said dialogue with angry Bloch people was the only solution to Balochistan problem. He said any institution or department that performs beyond the domain of law wrecks havoc instead of producing good results. Senator Mustafa Kamal of MQM on the occasion suggested the need to take practical steps aiming to address the miseries of Bloch people before holding dialogue with them.
Welcoming the maiden entrance of four members from minorities in the upper house, Aitizaz Ahsan termed the word ‘minority’ as exceptionable and suggested to replace it with the word ‘better Pakistani’ in the constitution. Referring to several minority members who contributed for the uplift of society, he said, Quaid-e-Azam had entrusted the task of legislation for the country to JN Mandal, the first law minister of Pakistan, who was a Hindu.
Haji Adeel of ANP said the constitutional bar on non-Muslims for president and prime minister, should be abolished. They are equal citizens as Muslims and play an important role in development of the country, he added. Babar Ghauri of MQM termed the elections of four minority senators for the first time in country’s history a great achievement and said that it would further improve the image of the country abroad.
Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain said during the past four months, several quarters tried to hatch conspiracies in a bid to postpone senate elections, but all were failed. He said his party would continue to support government on issues of national interest.
Opposition leader in Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri said that opposition would continue to play its active role in legislation and addressing peoples’ problems. He said in the best national interest they supported the government to get passed 18th, 19th and 20th amendments unanimously.
In his concluding remarks newly appointed Chairman Senate Nayyer Bokhari assured the senators that he would maintain friendly environment in the house and ensure the presence of ministers as after the passage of 18th amendment federal cabinet was answerable to the senate. Later, the House was prorogued.
On the other hand, Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Bokhari and Deputy Chairman Sabir Ali Baloch jointly called on President Asif Ali Zardari at the Aiwan-e-Sadr Monday night.
The president felicitated the new chairman and deputy chairman for their unopposed election and expressed hope that they will work towards further strengthening the parliament.
Earlier, the new senators of PPP from Punjab and Sindh also called on the party co-chairman. They included Aitzaz Ahsan, Babar Awan, Osman Saifullah, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Raza Rabbani, Mukhtiar Ahmed Dhamrah, Saeed Ghani, Hari Ram, Karim Ahmed Khawaja, Sehr Kamran and Ms Kahlida Parveen.
The president felicitated the new senators and expressed hope that guided by the spirit of reconciliation; they would play their important role in the august house to further strengthen democracy and the parliament in the country.
The president also hosted dinner for the new senators from Punjab and Sindh. Last week President Zardari had dinner meetings with the newly-elected senators from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 13-Mar-2012