Change of guard goes off smoothly in Senate

Senate’s new Chairman Nayyer Hussain BokhariISLAMABAD: Senate’s new Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari and Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch took oath of office after their unanimous election on Monday.

In accordance with an agreement among various parties, the opposition did not field any candidate against the PPP nominees.Mr Bokhari took the oath amid cheers and pro-Bhutto slogans raised by people in the visitors’ gallery. He later swore in Mr Baloch. Both were wearing badges of Benazir Bhutto.Senators belonging to different parties, including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mushahid Hussain and Ishaq Dar, came to Mr Bokhari to congratulate him after presiding officer Afrasiab Khatak announced his unanimous election.

Mr Khatak said Mr Bokhari’s nomination papers had been found to be in order by the Senate secretary and declared him unanimously elected because no other papers had been filed for the post.he swearing-in was followed by speeches congratulating Mr Bokhari and Mr Baloch and highlighting the challenges ahead.

The situation in Balochistan with a reference to the issue of missing persons and mutilated bodies, the role of intelligence agencies and Pakistan-US relationship were the subjects touched by several members. Voices were raised against the opening of air corridor for Nato supplies without waiting for parliament’s decision on the nature of future relationship with the United States and Nato.

PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat said conspiracies had been hatched against the Senate over the past couple of months, but expressed confidence that it would continue to serve as the upper house of parliament.Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Mr Bokhari’s unanimous election was a demonstration of the trust reposed in him, but also posed a great challenge to him. He said the endorsement of the nomination of the chairman and deputy chairman by the opposition and coalition parties would strengthen political forces. He said it would send a clear message to undemocratic forces that political parties were united on fundamental issues like where the locus of power lay.

He reminded the chairman that during the previous dictatorship the Senate secretariat had disallowed a large number of questions, motions and resolutions from being taken up on the floor of the house on the ground that the issues raised were of “secret and sensitive nature”, which led to the publication of a book titled ‘Killed in the Chamber’. “Let Nayyer Bokhari not be remembered for killing parliamentary instruments in his chamber,” he said.

Democratic and political workers would like to see Mr Bokhari remembered as a chairman who instead of blunting parliamentary instruments in his chamber sharpened them through open discussion and debate in the house, he said.Mr Babar said political power belonged to parliament and the people but over the past decades the substance of power had also shifted to non-political forces, resulting in an imbalance between political and non-political elements.He said the chairman and the Senate faced the challenging task of correcting this imbalance between political and non-political forces.

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan stressed the need for legislation to define the role of intelligence agencies. He said influential segments deemed themselves to be above the law.He said the Constitution was supreme and all institutions must function within the ambit defined by it.Mir Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party said it was a challenge to bring foreign policy out of the GHQ and make it subservient to parliament.He said the political cells in intelligence agencies should be disbanded.

He also raised the issue of abductions and killings in Balochistan and said time had come to give results to people.Haji Adeel of the Awami National Party said steps beyond apology were needed to reconcile the angry Baloch leaders.He said the Senate should have the powers to amend and even reject the money bill and there should be no bar on non-Muslims becoming president and prime minister of the country.

Mushahid Hussain said no intelligence agency was above the law and termed the missing persons issue as a test case for the new Senate. He called for implementation of the report of the parliamentary committee on Balochistan.Before reading out the prorogation order, the new chairman said presence of ministers in the house would be ensured, especially of those with questions relating to their ministries on the agenda. He said steps would be taken to make the question hour meaningful.The election of chairman and deputy chairman was preceded by the swearing-in of newly elected senators. – Dawn