Decision day today for Senate Election in Pakistan

Senate Election

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The stage is set for a nail-biting contest on 37 vacant seats of the Senate Election today (Wednesday) with 11 senators elected unopposed from Punjab. Now polling would be held for 12 seats each of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 of Sindh, and two of the federal capital.

MPAs from the three provincial assemblies will cast their vote for the candidates fielded from Balochistan, KP and Sindh, while MNAs will choose the representative from the federal capital. An epic encounter is expected in the National Assembly for the Islamabad seat where the PPP stalwart and PDM candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani is contesting against the ruling party candidate Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

The current strength of the National Assembly is 341 (one seat – NA-75 is vacant) and the ruling party candidate apparently enjoys the support of 180 MNAs.

Shaikh’s contender Gilani enjoys the support of 161 MNAs, including 83 of the PML-N, 55 of the PPP and 15 of MMA and the rest of like-minded parties like the ANP, BNP and three out of total four independents.

Gilani has run a robust campaign. Since the balloting is secret, Gilani enjoys the advantage of hidden support from MNAs, who have been his former colleagues, friends or those who are annoyed with the government.

As for the experience of connectivity with the parliamentarians and as a politician, Gilani visibly stands head and shoulders above Shaikh. When contacted, Gilani said, “Democratic forces” were with him.

On the other hand, Hafeez Shaikh, who could rightly be called the opening batsman of PM Imran Khan, is a sitting federal minister and his strength mainly lies in the personal numbers of the PTI and allies in the House. The PDM also fears that the prime minister’s promise of development funds for MNAs could impact on the Senate elections.

When contacted, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen said he was not aware of any funds offered to MNAs by the government before the polls. Nevertheless, it could be anybody’s game and a thrilling contest is expected today.

Another close contest is expected in Sindh where Faisal Vawda, another sitting federal minister, is contesting against the might of the PPP, which has fielded candidates from all 11 seats including seven general, two technocrat and two reserved seats for women.

The PTI has a strength of 30 MPAs in the House whereas 14 are from the Grand Democratic Alliance and 21 from the MQM. The PTI is likely to win a major chunk of seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa whereas the Balochistan Awam Party and allies look dominant in Balochistan.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the victory of PTI candidates, including Hafeez Shaikh and Fauzia Arshad, would drive the last nail in the coffin of the opposition politics. “Both PTI candidates from Islamabad will easily win the Senate elections,” he said in a news conference.

“The opposition has realised that Hafeez Shaikh would win and, therefore, it started looking towards Fazlur Rehman, thinking that his followers, comprising Madrassa students, would rescue it,” he said.

He further said the opposition had failed to sell political slogans and was now again talking about launching a long march. He claimed that everyone knew what the opposition parties had done to the national economy.

“The country owed Rs6,000 billion from 1947 to 2006, but the debt increased up to Rs30,000 billion during the decade of darkness from 2008 to 2018,” he added. He observed that Senate elections marked a major contest before the next general elections.

“We have some 181 members to our side and the number is expected to increase tomorrow. Some 176 of the 181 members met the prime minister at the luncheon today,” he said. The minister requested the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take notice of a brawl in the Sindh Assembly.

He also termed the ECP’s decision of conducting the Senate elections as per the old procedure due to shortage of time a weak argument when the government had offered technological assistance to make elections transparent.

The ECP should have decided to use technology, which exists in our country, to ensure fair elections. Our struggle for fairness in elections will continue even after the Senate election and we will start our fight for open Senate elections again in the parliament,” he added.

He said the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and the Pakistan People’s Party had signed the Charter of Democracy in the past which included holding Senate elections through an open ballot.

The minister also criticized former president Asif Ali Zardari, who, he said, could not appear before courts due to illness but reached Lahore for Gilani’s campaign. Meanwhile, PML-N senior leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi hoped that Gilani would win.

Talking to the media in Islamabad, he said the opposition parties had welcomed the Supreme Court’s opinion on the presidential reference. “A strong role of the ECP has emerged after the opinion,” he said, adding that national politics would take a new turn after the elections.

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