In a shock move for the opposition parties, Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yusuf Raza Gilani tendered his resignation last Monday in protest against allegations being levelled at him by his own ‘well-wishers’. The move comes just days after the government had managed to pass the controversial State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Amendment Bill 2021, which provides complete autonomy to the central bank, with a majority of one vote. The opposition had for weeks been protesting against the SBP bill and calling it a ‘threat to Pakistan’s national security’.
But on the day of the crucial sitting, the opposition, which enjoys a majority in the upper house, had eight of its legislators missing including the leader of the house. Opposition lawmakers, including PPP’s Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, had accused Gilani of siding with the treasury benches as he chose to attend a friend’s funeral over the Senate session. “I am not astonished by the harsh words from my opponents, but I am astonished by the silence of my well-wishers,” said Gilani during his speech in the house, after announcing his resignation from the post. The federal ministers had a field day as opposition leaders squabbled with each other, clearly denoting cracks among their leadership.
However, it is also crucial to note Gilani’s concerns raised over the way the SBP bill had sailed through. He noted that traditionally taking into confidence all the parties before taking up an important agenda was part of the proceedings of the house, which was not done. Whether Gilani intentionally chose to skip the session is difficult to determine but his remarks do stand true. The incumbent government has more than once made a mockery of the democratic system and chose an authoritarian line to pass its legislations without any consultations for the opposition. This is a dangerous precedent to set in a country that already has a weakened democracy.
As for the opposition, their lack of strategy works against them. The PML-N, PPP and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), were not too long ago also considering moving a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. But their failure to block the SBP bill only shows that they will also be unable to bring an in-house change, if they plan to go ahead with it. It must realise that making impassionate speeches at rallies will not deliver results. Nor would tendering resignations with less than two years left for the next general elections. Opposition leaders must work towards strengthening the democratic system by having their eyes set on the next polls.