ISLAMABAD - Showing his utter dismay and frustration over the ‘non-serious and irresponsible’ behaviour of the government, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Friday offered to step down, crying off to continue with his official work.

In protest, Raza Rabbani also returned the vehicle and official protocol as chairman of the Upper House.

In a rare move, the Senate chairman following his volunteer offer to resign adjourned the house for an indefinite period of time while using the parliamentary terminology of ‘adjourned sine die’. The Senate chairman’s surprising move comes over “persistent” absence of ministers in the Upper House and the government’s lacklustre approach regarding the questions raised in Senate.

In the evening, the government launched its efforts to persuade the Senate chairman as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar met with him and conveyed a “special” message of the government. The Senate Secretariat, however, did not comment about the meeting till the filing of this story.

“The government is not ready to accept the constitutional role of the upper house of parliament, which reflects from the absenteeism of its ministers,” Rabbani said while pointing out the repeated warnings he issued to the ministers to make sure their presence in the house during the question hour session. His warnings were not working for the last more than two years since he took the oath of office in March 2015.

The move from the Senate chairman came after he found no replies from the ministries concerned to some four consecutive questions asked by the members. No government minister except state minister for petroleum and natural resources was present in the house.

Rabbani said that he was unable to maintain the integrity and constitutional position of the house and leaves the decision up to the members regarding his resignation.

After the adjournment of the house, Rabbani while talking to reporters said that he would not be able to leave for Iran in the present circumstances. He had to leave for Iran on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, official sources at the Senate Secretariat said that Rabbani has abstained from resuming official work and directed his staff that he would not look into any file.

“The Senate is making all out efforts to play its constitutional role to strengthen the federation. But, the way I want to run this house, has become impossible. So if anybody has any grudge against me, I am ready to resign,” said Rabbani.      

“The federation is facing a quite alarming situation as once again tensions have surfaced between the federation and provinces,” the Senate chairman said adding that Senate had tried to play its role in resolving contentious issues.

“We resolved 24-points sent to Senate by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa quite amicably, the Committee of the Whole deliberated on the FATA issue, a day before Thursday the issue of water from Sindh province was referred to standing for a report within 15 days,” he added. He said that the house also discussed the gas supply issue and welcomed a constructive response by the minister concerned.

“The Senate and I myself always desired cordial relations between the federation and the provinces, but now I feel that it was no more possible,” he said.

 "If this tension is because of my being in the Chair, I am ready to resign. I leave this matter to the house to decide on it."

Law Minister Zahid Hamid tried to persuade the angry chairman, saying the government would try to find a solution to the problem by calling a meeting of the federal secretaries and even the ministers. “The government has all the respect for the house and there is no intention to undermine its sanctity,” he said.

But, the chair turned down his request, saying the issue has been there for more than one-year but the government paid no heed to it.     

“If cannot ensure sanctity and supremacy of the Senate, the session is of no use and adjourn it sine die,” Rabbani said.

Earlier, opposition lawmakers in Senate including Senator Nisar Muhammad Khan of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz -PML-N and three members of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party also staged a walkout, accusing the government of intentionally making Senate a ‘post office’. 

During the question hour, when Rabbani resumed the proceedings after suspending it for about 35 minutes, only two state ministers were present in the house, while the law minister was summoned by the chair who rushed to the house from the National Assembly.      

The opposition lawmakers in their remarks assured their full support to the Senate Chairman, saying they will stand by him shoulder to shoulder in his struggle to pick up the prestige and dignity of Senate. They said that the government had only turned the house into a ‘debating club’. 

PPP Senator Taj Haider said that the issue was much more complicated and showed his apprehensions that the government wanted to roll back the 18th amendment through such tactics. “The government has adopted a policy not to give right answers to our questions, and a policy to ignore the rulings of the Senate chairman and this will ultimately strengthen the undemocratic forces,” he warned.

Soon after the adjournment of the house, Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab met with Senate chairman to persuade him to resume work but they failed to convince him, who wanted some concrete steps from the government.

In the evening, PTI senators including Azam Swati and Shibli Faraz met with Rabbani at his residence and expressed their solidarity and assured their full support, an office bearer of the PTI’s Central Media Department said.