Main political parties manipulating their vote power, PML-N and PPP failed so far to bring their unanimous candidates for chairman and deputy chairman. Nawaz, Fazl proposes Raza Rabbani but Asif disposes. Bilawal wants chairman from opposition, Imran eager to see from Balochistan. Decision on Monday
Nation special report
ISLAMABAD: Notwithstanding, Pakistan’s Senate elections are over but witnessed major upsets in many provincial assemblies and now the most crucial time for the upper house of the Parliament would be election of chairman and deputy chairman on Monday, March 12 for which all political parties are very much active to cash their votes.
“Very interesting situation is going on as ‘king-makers’ trying their best to manoeuvre their powerful position in their own interest”, the political observers stated on Thursday. Polls were held on March 3 in the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies for 52 Senate seats out of a total of 104.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged with a majority. The senators-elect will take oath on March 12 when the chairman and deputy chairman Senate will be elected the same day.
Political parties are actively working to form alliances in an effort to gather the required number of at least 53 votes in order to install the Chairman Senate of their choice.
No political party has enough numbers in the Senate as yet to elect its candidate on its own. Present Chairman Raza Rabbani was the centre point of attention for the chairmanship and also supported by Nawaz Sharif and Maulana Fazlur Rehman but was ‘rejected’ by his leader Asif Ali Zardari who said “Don’t to happen this again”.
Chairman, PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari wants chairman from opposition whereas PTI Chief Imran Khan is eager to give this portfolio to Balochistan. The PML-N has 15 newly elected senators, bringing its total strength in the Upper House to 34 after Miza Muhammad Arfidi, the senator-elect from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), announced he was joining the PML-N on Monday. The party is still not in a position to bring the chairman Senate from its candidates by itself and needs the government’s allies to support the PML-N candidate. The PPP has 20 votes in the Senate so far with 12 newly elected senators, and needs 33 more votes to have its candidate elected as chairman Senate. For that, it would need to forge alliances with many independent candidates and other political parties.
The third largest political party in the Senate is PTI, with a total of 12 senators. However, the largest number of senators after the PML-N and PPP are the independent candidates with five old senators and 10 newly elected ones.
This total of 15 senators was reduced to 14 after one of them joined the PML-N. Six of these independent senators are from Balochistan and are the focus of every political party at this point in the numbers game. These senators are expected to play an important role in the election of chairman Senate. The MQM has only one newly elected senator, bringing its total number of Senate votes to five.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur Raham (JUI-F) has two newly elected senators, bringing its total number of votes to four. Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Balochistan National Party have five senators each in the Upper House, while Muslim League-Functional and Awami National Party (ANP) have one each. If the ruling PML-N is supported by its allies in the Senate chairman election, then its already existing 34 votes would be joined by four from JUIF, five from Pk MAP, five from BNP, and one from the Muslim League Functional, bringing the total to 49.
The remaining four votes required to achieve the target of 53 could then be filled by independent candidates or another party. However, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said his party will pitch the chairman Senate from within PPP and was approaching other opposition parties to support the PPP candidate. If the opposition parties join the PPP, then its already existing 20 votes would have 12 from PTI, five from MQM, two from Jamat-e-Islami (JI), and one from the ANP. If the six senators-elect from Balochistan decide to support the PPP candidate, the party’s total number of votes reaches 46 senators, requiring only seven more votes.
But this would require the PPP to forge a huge grand opposition alliance not been seen in the past five years. Chief Minister of Balochistan Abdul Quddus Bizenjo has said that independent senators-elect from Balochistan would join the party that supports the notion of a chairman Senate hailing from Balochistan. Dr. Qayyum Sumro and Faisal Karim Kundi of PPP visited Balochistan earlier this week and met Bizenjo and other senior officials in their quest to bag Senate votes.
Bilawal Bhutto Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that the opposition will try to get its nominee elected as new chairman of the Senate as “the majority party in the upper house” has the right to bring its chairman. Addressing a press conference at PPP Media Cell on Sunday along with newly elected 10 senators of the party from Sindh, he said that at present the PPP, and not the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, was the majority party in the Senate as senators in Punjab were elected independently without any party affiliation and they were yet to join a political party.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the PML-N had the right to try to emerge as the largest single party in parliament and also to get its nominee elected as Senate chairman. Imran Khan Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has said he thinks the next Senate chairman should belong to Balochistan. While speaking to the media in Peshawar, Khan said that at this point, there is one thing his party is sure of: that they do not want a Senate chairman from PML-N.
“We are afraid that if the Senate chairman is from the PML-N, they may enact laws to safeguard the Sharif family from the charges of corruption they face,” he explained. He added: “On the other hand, we also cannot work with a party like the PPP, so we are trying to come up with a strategy where a Senate chairman can be brought in [without the PPP’s help] — ideally from Balochistan. It is a smaller province and a chairman [from there] will help [their cause].
That is what we are working towards, but the party will meet tomorrow to come up with a concrete strategy.” Commenting on Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s meetings with the heads of both PML-N and PPP, Imran Khan said, “The book Alice in the Wonderland has a saying which explains this [strategy] perfectly: ‘When you don’t know where you want to go, it does not matter which road you take’.” Nawaz Sharif Former Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif Thursday said that he had backed Raza Rabbani for Senate Chairman in order to curtail the chances of horse-trading, pressing for electoral reforms following the allegations of horse trading in Senate elections 2018.
Talking to the media, he stated that it is Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz’s (PML-N) right to bring a chairman from its ranks as it has the majority, winning 15 seats in the Senate elections 2018. He added that talks with Mehmood Achakzai, Hasil Bizenjo and Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman were underway to discuss the leadership of the Upper House. Sharif revealed to the media that horse-trading for the Senate elections had started three months prior to the elections. He condemned the acts of turning democracy into a symbol of marketable business.
Supreme Court’s ruling The Supreme Court on Thursday announced that the hearing of a case concerning senator select believed to possess dual nationality will be held on March 10 in order to ensure that eligible legislators are not prevented from voting in the upcoming election for the Senate chairman. During the hearing today, the chief justice said he had not known that the elections for the Senate chairman were to be held on March 12 when he ordered the withholding of notifications.