Maqbool Malik & IMRAN MUKHTAR

ISLAMABAD

As the multiparty opposition in the Senate and PTI-led ruling coalition are locking their horns over the no-confidence motion against incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday assured Sanjrani of his party’s all-out support while the opposition parties nominated National Party Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo as their joint candidate for the top slot of the Upper House.

“PTI with the cooperation of its coalition partners and other sane elements would foil the no-confidence motion against the incumbent chairman.” the prime minister told Sadiq Sanjrani who called on him here on Thursday.

The meeting came hours after opposition parties nominated Mir Hasil Bizenjo for the post of Senate chairman in the ongoing efforts to replace Sanjrani.

“We will make the no-trust motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani unsuccessful,” the prime minister was quoted as saying during the meeting.

According to sources, Sanjrani, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan Swati and Leader of the House in Senate Shibli Faraz were present in the meeting.

The sources also said that Imran directed PTI senators to reach out to other political parties to foil the opposition’s bid to remove Sanjrani.

Swati and Shibli Faraz also briefed the prime minister on the number of senators required to save Sanjrani.

A day earlier, Faraz had claimed that he was in touch with several opposition senators on this matter and the ruling PTI is formulating a strategy to thwart the no-trust move.

In March last year, in a major blow to the then ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Sanjrani was elected Senate chairman with the support of PTI, PPP and a bloc of independent lawmakers.

JOINT OPP MEETING

The opposition parties on Thursday agreed to nominate National Party Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo as their joint candidate for the position of Senate chairman.

The opposition’s Rehbar Committee made this decision in a meeting held under the chairmanship of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) leader Akram Khan Durrani.

Senior politicians of nine opposition parties including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Farhatullah Babar, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, and Usman Kakar attended the meeting besides others.

After the meeting, the committee convener Mr Durrani made the announcement that opposition parties had a consensus on Bizenjo, a former federal minister and a Baloch nationalist.

He also said that it had been decided that PPP’s Saleem Mandviwalla and PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq would continue to serve in the Senate as its Deputy Chairman and Leader of the Opposition respectively.

The opposition parties in the Senate on July 9 had moved a resolution of no-confidence against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in the light of the Rehbar Committee’s July 5 decision.

The June 26 multi-party conference (MPC) of opposition parties had decided to remove Sanjrani as part of a decision to mount pressure on the PTI-led government. The opposition alleges that government is victimizing their senior politicians in the name of accountability. The moot had also decided to constitute Rehbar Committee to implement the decisions of MPC.

Political sources informed that imprisoned PML-N leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif gave a go ahead to the party on the name of Bizenjo as all opposition parties wanted that their candidate should be from Balochistan. They were of the view that as Sanjrani hailed from that most deprived province of the country, so a new name for Senate chairman should be from Balochistan as well.

Following his nomination, Bizenjo told the media that it was an honour for him that opposition had reposed trust in him. “I will try my best to deliver on the expectations of the opposition parties.”

“Winning and losing part of election process, but I already feel like I have won with the trust shown on me,” he said. He also claimed that he would get a lot of votes from Balochistan.

To the question if he would seek votes from the government coalition, he said they were politicians and they could knock the doors of anyone – even from where they expected no response.

Awami National Party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain after the meeting said that Bizenjo was among the three names given by PML-N as its candidates and called him the best choice. PML-N senators Raja Zafarul Haq and Musadik Malik were the other two men named by the opposition party.

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal after the meeting said that the government was trying to avoid summoning of the Senate session as they did not have the required number to defeat the no-confidence move.

He said it was a legal requirement that Senate chairman summon the session within 14 days of its requisition submitted by the opposition on July 9.

“We would not allow anyone to make a mockery of the constitution and the democracy” by delaying the session, he said.

Earlier, PTI leader Dr Babar Awan in a statement said that the session on requisition could only be summoned on emergent basis and the government would not allow moving of the no-confidence resolution in the requisitioned session.

“The rules regarding requisitioning the secession are silent.” For this purpose, a regular session would have to be summoned and the government can delay the summoning of regular session for 120 days under the constitution, he added.

Later, Senator Hasil Bizenjo met with PML-N leaders in the chamber of leader of opposition in the National Assembly at Parliament House to express his gratitude for the nomination.

He thanked former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for showing trust in him. PML-N leaders including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Asif, Rana Tanveer and Ahsan Iqbal were present in the meeting.

Bizenjo also made a telephonic contact with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and thanked him for the nomination.