Apart from being the only party offering any resistance to Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s re-election as speaker of the National Assembly, Imran Khan’s party managed to maintain discipline as well, obtaining 31 votes for their candidate while having only 29 MNAs in the house. However it did not stop a landslide victory for the PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq who utterly crushed the PTI candidate.
This was in stark contrast to the PML-N showing earlier yesterday whose key leaders such as petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Captain Mohammad Safdar and Marvi Memon did not even bother to show up, no doubt they were aware of how one sided the election was and deemed their presence unnecessary.
Mr Sadiq coasted to a comfortable win, becoming only the second man in Pakistan’s history to become speaker of the house twice. Malik Meraj Khalid of the PPP had the privilege of being the first man to do so. Mr Khalid served as speaker for a few months in 1977, and then again during the first Benazir Bhutto government, between 1988 and 1990.
However, Mr Sadiq has the unique distinction of being the only speaker to be elected by the same house, twice in one term. Of the 300 votes polled, Mr Sadiq bagged 268, with one vote being declared invalid. Despite being assured of support from across the board, several key figures, such as PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PPP’s Faryal Talpur, Syed Naveed Qamar and Shazia Marri, were absent from Monday’s vote.
The MQM, whose lawmakers returned to the house the same day as the re-elected Mr Sadiq, also voted for him, as did all other parliamentary parties, including the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), who are PTI’s allies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
The PTI technically has 33 MNAs, but four of them were expelled by party chief Imran Khan for not extending support to last year’s sit-in outside parliament. A PTI office-bearer told Dawn, off-the-record, that the two additional votes the party seemed to have obtained likely came from Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Jamshed Dasti.
When asked about the JI and QWP decision to vote for the ruling party, PTI’s speaker candidate Shafqat Mehmood said, “I am really disappointed, particularly with the JI, because apart from sitting in government with us in KP, the party is also planning seat adjustments with us for the ongoing local government elections.”
Mr Mehmood also pointed out PTI’s role as an effective opposition during his concession speech. “We lawmakers are fast becoming irrelevant to the problems of the public, as their issues are not being raised on the floor of the house.”
He said that democracy would be strengthened in the country if decisions such as the National Action Plan and the setting up of military courts were taken in parliament, not at multi-party conferences. Even the newly-elected speaker — in his acceptance speech — hailed PTI’s decision “to contest the election because such practices strengthen democracy and the rule of law”.
Mr Sadiq also stressed the need to improve the working of the committee system, saying, “I will try my level best to take both sides of the bench along [in this process].”
MQM’s Farooq Sattar also lauded the PTI’s decision to contest the election and called it “a good omen for democracy”.
Privately, a senior ruling party lawmaker conceded that, at the moment, the PTI appeared to be the only real opposition party in the house.
“PPP, MQM, JI , QWP, ANP and even Fata members; all of them need the federal government’s support over one issue or the other, so they had no choice but to vote for Mr Sadiq.”
Taking a lead from Shafqat Mehmood, opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah, after congratulating Mr Sadiq on his re-election, said the government’s “honeymoon period was over now”.