PM convenes meeting of all parties as Senate polls get complicated

March 10, 2015

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The meeting is aimed to develop consensus among political parties over the selection of a non-controversial chairman.—APP/File
The meeting is aimed to develop consensus among political parties over the selection of a non-controversial chairman.—APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has convened yet another meeting of all political parties on Tuesday, however, this time it isn’t for a common cause but for the elections of chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate.

According to a well-connected source in the PML-N, the purpose of the meeting is to develop consensus among main political parties over the selection of a non-controversial politician for the post of the chairman. Since the government lacks required strength in the Senate to win the elections, it will seek compromise among top political players.

Know more: Who will secure the Senate chairman and deputy chairman seats?

A spokesperson for the government said the prime minister would have a meeting over lunch with the leaders of political parties to discuss issues related to election to the top Senate posts.

“In the present equation, the only chance for the PML-N to stage victory is directly tied to the combined support of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (eight members) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (five members), who at the moment seem to be more inclined to the PPP,” said the source.

Secondly, the fiasco over the Senate elections on the Fata seats has also contributed to pushing the PML-N backward on its chances of taking over the charge in the upper house. Although, the PPP (27 senators) has thin majority of one vote over the PML-N (26 senators), the latter lacks majority in the upper house.

Another PML-N office-bearer said: “Our best shot at the moment is to make all political parties agree on somebody, preferably from a smaller province, enjoying across-the-board support, for which the government is willing for a trade-off.”

Otherwise, he admitted, the government had no chance of putting in place a Senate chairman of its own choice.

And, the government is not receiving affable vibes from the PPP’s camp, too.

In backchannel contacts, the PPP leadership has politely conveyed to the government that the party would prefer election in the Senate for its new chairman and his deputy, instead of reaching some beforehand agreement.

A close aide to the PPP leader told Dawn that the party was in a comfortable position in the race for the Senate chairman. Therefore, the only option left for the government was “to stay out of the contest and let us in consultation with our allies decide the future chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate.”

And that was what had been decided in the famous charter of democracy that it was the right of the majority party to pick leader of the either house, the PPP leader said.

PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari over the last few days had launched an intense campaign to win the top Senate slots.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has decided not to attend Tuesday’s meeting called by the prime minister. Talking to Dawn, a spokesperson for the PTI chairman said: “The party has decided not to become part of this dirty politics the two main political parties are indulging in for the election of Senate chairman.”

At the same time, the PTI has challenged election of the Senate chairman in the Islamabad High Court, arguing that since elections for Senators representing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are yet to be held, the upper house cannot choose its new chairman without their due representation.

Moreover, it said, final notification of Senate election results for the federal capital had not been issued, which also made the election of chairman and deputy chairman against the constitutional requirements.

Published in Dawn March 10th , 2015

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