ISLAMABAD - The persistent controversy over the appointment of JUI-Fs Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri as leader of the opposition in the Senate Tuesday marred the entire proceedings amid walk out of major opposition parties over the issue.
The special budget session of the Upper House of the Parliament consumed the entire time while discussing the voting criterion over the appointment of leader of the opposition rather initiating the continuous debate on the finance bill 2011-12.
Senate Chairman Farooq H Naeks decision to appointed JUI-Fs Secretary General Haideri as leader of the opposition has generated the controversy.
Among the divided opposition members, legislators of PML-N, PML-Q Likeminded, PML-Q dissidents except Mohammad Ali Durrani, National Party Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) staged a walk out over the controversial decision of the Senate chairman.
The legislators demanded of the chairman to review his decision otherwise they would continue their protest.
The chairman implicitly admitted he would review his decision and a time frame would be decided to discuss the constitutional points of the matter after Senator Raza Rabbani would sought a separate debate on the matter.
Senator Ishaq Dar of PML-N said that ironically nine senators of PML-Q (likeminded) and PML-Q dissidents had been disenfranchised on the selection of leader of the opposition though he had already allotted them seats on opposition benches.
He said those nine independent senators who had voted in favour of Maulana Haideri could not do so prior to showing their association for either side of the house.
Those five Fata senators who voted in favour of the JUI-F candidate had earlier declared their association for government alliance in their annual assts declarations submitted before the Election Commission of Pakistan, he said, adding how they could vote for leader of the opposition.
Later the Senate chairman informed the house that he had allocated seats to PML-Q members on the opposition benches on their application and because of lack of space on treasury benches but it did not mean that they were part of the opposition.
Senator Haroon Akhtar was of the view that they (PML-Q dissidents) did not come under defection Clause of Article 63 (1), as they wanted to remain on opposition benches as separate group within PML-Q.
He also said neither any law abstained parliamentarians from voting nor PML-Q President Ch Shujaat Hussain could right them off from voting against their conscience.
Naeem Hussain Chattha endorsed Haroon Akhtar and said the chairman had deprived them from their right to vote.
Professor Khurshid Ahmed said independent senators were part of the treasury benches and how could they vote for leader of the opposition.
Haji Adeel Ahmed of ANP clarified that his party did not support the candidature of the leader of the opposition.
The JUI-F senators took a hard line against PML-N while supporting the appointment of Moulana Haideri what they said that PML-N was supporting the dictatorship to derail democracy.
Legal expert and legislator Senator SM Zafar said leader of the opposition meant the representative of those political parties who were part of the opposition and the member of a political party meant member of a political party composed of a single political party.
He said if the PML-Q legislators wanted to exercise their right of vote, they should join other political party and take the risk of defection clause.
While elaborating the definition of independent candidates, he said they had the right that either they could vote for treasury benches or opposition benches.
Senators Hamayun Khan Mandokhel and Hafiz Rasheed Ahmed, both independents told the chair that they were part of the opposition benches.
Senator Mian Raza Rabbani seeking a separate debate on the matter said the chairmans decision would have serious repercussions and long-term impact on the parliaments history.
He said legal experts of the house should come with complete preparation and put all the legal points before the house.
Rabbani said when the chair recognised some members as separate group on the opposition benches they should be given the same privileges as enjoyed by the opposition.
He said there were many questions before the chair - is there a difference between an independent member and a group of independent members and how it can be discriminated that on one side there are restrictions on the right of franchise and on the other side the right of franchise is free.
The chairman opined the issue was a complicated one and it would be decided that whether it could be discussed in the house or in the chamber.
Leader of the House Nayyer Hussain Bokhari suggested that the chairman should examine the rules of business of the house that whether or not he could review the decision.
The chairman also forwarded the recommendations of legislators on the Finance Bill 2011-12 to the senates standing committee on finance for further consideration and discussion.
Senator Ahmed Ali was the only legislator who spoke on the budget debate before the house was adjourned to meet again today (Wednesday) at 10: 30 am.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 08-Jun-2011 here.