ISLAMABAD: It seems that old faces are set to return to the upper house of parliament on PML-N ticket. That is the impression the ruling party gave when it made public its candidates for the coming Senate polls on Wednesday.
The list of 24 candidates contains names of a number of people who had lost the 2013 general elections, as well as some who are considered to be close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The only surprises were the exclusion of Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi from the final list. Both the PM’s adviser on foreign affairs and his special assistant were being tipped as Senate hopefuls so that one of them could be made a full-fledged foreign minister.
But there were no big surprises as the party awarded tickets to most senators retiring in March and accommodated other people from other provinces in the nominations for Punjab and Islamabad, where the party is expected to sweep the elections.
However, the decision to award tickets to people from other provinces has not been welcomed by many within the party. A number of rejected candidates termed the decision “a negation of the basic spirit of the constitutional provision whereby a person is required to be a registered voter in the same province where he or she is contesting the Senate elections”.
For instance, PML-N Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, originally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been given a ticket on a general seat from the federal capital. Tando Allahyar’s former nazim Dr Raheela Magsi has been given a ticket for the reserved seat for women in Islamabad. Both Mr Jhagra and Ms Magsi had lost the general elections in 2013.
The PML-N has also awarded a ticket to Nehal Hashmi – the general secretary of the party’s Sindh chapter – for a general seat from Punjab. PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan has also been given the ticket on a general seat from Punjab. Both of them belong to Karachi.
There has also been resentment within party ranks over the decision to award a ticket to Dr Asif Kirmani, the PM’s political secretary, on a general seat from Punjab. A number of party members said that Dr Kirmani was a non-political figure with no constituency and did not have a long association with the party either.
Another name in the final list that has raised many eyebrows is that of former Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Ordnance Factory chairman, retired Lt-Gen Abdul Qayyum Khan. Many consider him a new entrant to the party who lost in the last general elections from Chakwal.
The six sitting senators who are retiring in March and have been given tickets again are: Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, Najma Hameed and Sajid Mir from Punjab and Sardar Yaqub Nasir from Balochistan.
Sitting senators who have not been awarded tickets include Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal and Syed Zafar Ali Shah.
Sources in the party told Dawn that Mr Iqbal had a number of family members already in the legislatures. Moreover, they said, his name was being considered for the post of Punjab governor.
However, Syed Zafar Ali Shah, who had become senator in 2009 from Punjab, had been denied the ticket as the leadership was unhappy over some of his statements where he had criticised certain decisions of the government. Others who have been awarded tickets on general seats from Punjab include former MPA Chaudhry Tanveer and Dr Ghaus Niazi.
Chaudhry Tanveer is an old party loyalist and has recently become eligible to participate in the elections. He was convicted in the 1997 Supreme Court attack case.
Dr Ghaus Niazi is the president of the party’s Khushab chapter. However, the sources said, that Dr Niazi had developed special relations with the Sharif brothers when they were living in exile in Saudi Arabia as he had been a frequent visitor to the kingdom, where many of his family members were residing.
Similarly, the sources said, Sajid Mir, who belongs to the Jamiat Ahle Hadith, had been given the ticket on a technocrat seat for Ulema for another term because of his contacts in Saudi Arabia. With the change in the Saudi government, the sources said, the Sharifs would be interested to see Sajid Mir continue to play an “influential role” in relations with Saudi Arabia.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the PML-N has awarded a ticket to retired Lt-Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi, who is also considered a close associate of the PM. Former KP chief minister Pir Sabir Shah has been given the ticket as a cover candidate.
In Balochistan, where the party expects to get two to three general seats, one seat for women and one for minority, the PML-N has awarded tickets to nine candidates, including three cover candidates.
Published in Dawn February 12th , 2015