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ISLAMABAD: The expected resignation of Dr Babar Awan from the Senate will deprive the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of its status of being the “single largest party” in the upper house of parliament.

With the resignation of the PPP senator after his decision to formally join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the number of PPP members will become 26 — equal to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).

The PPP has been enjoying the status of the single largest party in the Senate for the past eight years. Since 2009, the PPP has managed to get three of its members as the chairman of the upper house, including the incumbent Mian Raza Rabbani. Before him, former law minister Farooq H. Naek and Nayyar Hussain Bokhari had served as the Senate chairman.

Though a number of PPP stalwarts and leaders had recently joined the PTI providing a setback to the PPP, the PTI leaders are more jubilant over Babar Awan’s inclusion to their party since he is the first sitting parliamentarian to take the decision to join the party at the cost of his Senate seat — although only eight months before his retirement next March.

Mr Awan had managed to get the party ticket for the Senate elections in 2012 at a time when there were reports that he had not been in the good books of the then president and his party boss, former president Asif Ali Zardari.

The PPP was expected to win two Senate seats from Punjab, but the party managed to win the lone seat of Babar Awan and its other candidate Aslam Gill lost the election to an independent Mohsin Leghari. The party at that time believed that a number of party MPAs defected during secret balloting.

After the historic 18th Amendment in the Constitution, a legislator is required to submit his resignation from the house to avoid disqualification. Mr Awan, who is himself a lawyer, has reportedly already announced that he would quit his Senate seat after his decision to join the PTI.

After Mr Awan’s resignation, both the PPP and the PML-N will have 26 members each in the 104-member Senate, which is also known as the House of Federation. The urban Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the PTI are the other two parties with maximum seats in the Senate with eight and seven senators, respectively.

Keeping in view the party position in the Punjab Assembly, the ruling PML-N is all set to win the by-election to be held on Mr Awan’s seat and thus it will acquire the status of the single largest party in the Senate.

The next elections of the Senate are due in March next year. According to Article 59 of the Constitution, the Senate comprises 104 members — 23 each from the four federating units, eight from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and four from Islamabad.

The 23 seats allocated to a province comprise 14 general seats, four reserved for women, four for technocrats and one for minority member.

The term of a senator is six years, but 50 per cent of the total members retire after every three years and elections are held for new senators. Elections to fill the seats allocated to each province are held in accordance with the “system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote”.

The Fata senators are elected by the members of the National Assembly from the area whereas the four senators on the reserved seats from Islamabad are elected by the members of the National Assembly.

Therefore, the Senate elections always depend on the party positions in the four provincial assemblies and the National Assembly.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2017