The joke that is the Senate elections

Published March 11, 2015
Overall, the Senate elections just helped the nation realise how our politicians are still bickering over all the wrong priorities. —Reuters
Overall, the Senate elections just helped the nation realise how our politicians are still bickering over all the wrong priorities. —Reuters

The recent Senate elections proved one thing beyond doubt: our politicians still have no idea how to conduct themselves.

The joke started with the PTI creating a fuss over a non-issue i.e. not being able to keep their party people in-line to vote for their candidates instead of voting based on bidding wars by independent candidates.

Then, it was continued with the 22nd Amendment, which was put up by PML-N as a trap to get the PTI back in Parliament, while sending the impression that the PML-N had afforded the PTI a face-saving stunt. And it ended with the passing off of people like Raja Zafar ul Haq (an esteemed career politician) and Sajid Mir as technocrats.

Overall, the Senate elections just helped the nation realise how our politicians are still bickering over all the wrong priorities.

Also read: Imran accuses PML-N, PPP of rigging Senate elections

After the elections, came Act II of this comedy i.e. the election of the chairman Senate.

Now here is the thing: the PML-N was under the impression that with their recent keeping-under-the-radar on every issue, they would pull enough strings to get enough numbers in the senate to get their man the top job.

What the PML-N did not realise is, unlike the people of people Punjab and those of Pakistan, Asif Zardari saw them coming from a mile away.

What unfolded in the next three days was the funniest thing I have witnessed in Pakistani politics: Asif Zardari rose from political hibernation, walked over to the PML-N and PTI, quietly took what he wanted and walked away.

Also read: PM convenes meeting of all parties as Senate polls get complicated

By the time the two realised what had happened, he was inviting the prime minister to come over for dinner so he could pretzel the Senate Chairmanship out of him. Forget the clean sweep of 11 Senate seats in Punjab and the ill-conceived 22nd amendment stunt, the PML-N ended up looking weaker than it has since May 2013.

Irrespective of how much fun this whole activity was for the observers, the bigger issue is:

Why do we even have Senate elections?

Why even bother having senate ‘elections’ when it is understood that the representation is going to be proportionate to party seats at the provincial levels?

And, it is well known that a bunch of rich families are obsessed with buying their way in to the Senate because they love the title i.e. they want to be politically involved but do not want to deal with the riffraff that comes with general elections.

So instead of having to bear these ‘elections’ let us drop the hypocrisy and come up with new rules: Half the Senate seats go up for open bidding and the other half get directly appointed by the political party that earns them, based on provincial representation.

This way, at least half the Senate will constitute of people that political parties need to oblige and accommodate, and the money raised by the other half could go to provinces that sell the seats. The money that is raised by selling Senate seats can at least end up helping the provinces.

Also read: Race for top Senate posts wide open

Think about it: insecure rich people need to feel as if they matter after having done whatever they did to make money. With my formula, they can have that; they can actually feel important and pretend they have a say.

The parties can accommodate the old gentlemen who refuse to realise it is time to retire and let new people come in, as well as the gentlemen who suck the party leadership dry and never leave their side but do not have the personality to stand a chance in a general election.

It is a win-win for all those involved.

I really hope we can accept this and cut out our hypocrisy. But until we do, let us enjoy Zardari masterly outfoxing the PML-N.

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