What started as a good day for the opposition, with the no-confidence motion in the Senate against the Chairman passed with 64 votes, quickly turned disastrous when the results revealed that only 50 of those Senators had actually voted to deseat the Chairman. 53 were needed for the motion to pass, and with 5 votes rejected and 45 against, Mr Sanjrani retains his chairmanship. The most obvious question is regarding the 14 votes missing, to ensure the opposition’s victory; how is it that this motion was passed even though the numbers were in favour of a removal?

The answer is evident; there are defectors in the opposition’s camp. Opposition numbers in Senate are meaningless if some from within are consistently attempting to subvert whatever is planned. It might not be too difficult to find those that double stamped their votes or chose to side with the government; there were members of the opposition that were thumping in agreement when the outcome was announced.

It is also likely, that these defectors did not vote against the wishes of their party out of sheer principled loyalty to the Chairman; it is not too difficult to assume that it is the government that relied on horse-trading to win this motion, given that the outcome was to its liking and many functionaries of the ruling party were loudly guaranteeing a victory long before the vote even took place. The government will no doubt be ecstatic, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has managed to win in the Senate twice despite not having the requisite numbers.

One of the key takeaways from this entire episode is to review secret ballots as a strategy in conducting votes of no confidence in the Senate. In principle, this is meant to ensure that no Senator is compelled to vote based only on party interests, but in reality, it encourages horse-trading and under-the-table deals between Senators willing to sell their vote and any rival party looking to exploit this.

Chairman Sanjrani has managed to stay in office. The opposition has lost yet another battle against the government and the failure to keep its own members in line to support their parties at this crucial juncture will affect their confidence going forward. This is expected after all; the opposition has not been able to make a mark on parliamentary proceedings so far, and this defeat is only going to further divisions and depressions. With the party members themselves losing faith in the party leadership to deliver results, the defeat will be a sobering reality check. No matter the numbers, without a proper strategy, the Opposition doesn’t have a hope of making the government feel discomfort. Despite the fact that petrol prices were once again raised today, much to the annoyance and displeasure of the already-squeezed public.