Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Yousuf Raza Gilani announced on Monday that he was stepping down from his post of Senate opposition leader during a speech in the upper house of Parliament.
The announcement comes in the wake of a tempestuous Senate session on Friday in which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf--led governemnt managed to get the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 passed by the thinnest of margins in the opposition-controlled Senate. Gilani was among at least eight opposition senators who didn't attend the session.
The absence raised quite a few eyebrows which was brought under greater scrutiny due to the margin with which the bill was passed.
During his speech, Gilani also accused Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani of supporting the government, saying it was not appropriate to issue the session's agenda "in the middle of the night."
“A chairman is believed to be custodian of the house, not the government,” he said, adding that “he [Sadiq Sanjrani] should have remained neutral during the voting process."
He further said that the Senate chairman should not have voted in support of the bill, referring to Sanjrani's deciding vote after the count was tied at 42 apiece. “This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that the Senate chairman has voted,” he claimed.
The PPP leader said that the session's agenda was not even sent to the relevant standing committee, adding that this had been a democratic norm.
Responding to criticism that he helped the government by not being present in the session, Gilani said: “Some people are saying that I supported the government on this issue…I have resigned [as Senate opposition leader] over the matter.
"I am not astonished by the harsh words from my opponents, but I am astonished by the silence of my well-wishers," he said, sharing his view regarding criticism from some leaders belonging to the opposition.
"If ministers had criticised me [over the issue], it would have been an honour. But some turncoats are saying that I helped the government and I am saying that [the government] won because of your votes," he said in an apparent response to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary's claim that the PPP senator helped the government in the passage of the bill.
The bill's approval from the Senate meets the last key condition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme ahead of the sixth review that is set to take place on February 2.
The SBP (Amendment) Bill 2021 has been a source of major debate in recent weeks with the opposition claiming that it will hand over powers of the central bank over to the IMF.
However, in its response, the government has maintained that it will "retain control" of the SBP.
Earlier, in its bid to secure the next tranche of the IMF's Extended Fund Facility (EFF), the government also passed the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, known more commonly as the 'mini-budget', that withdraws sales tax exemptions to the tune of Rs343 billion.
While the government managed to enforce the Finance (Supplementary) Act, 2022 from January 16, 2022, it was the SBP (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that needed Senate approval.