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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) will be fighting a battle for survival in the coming Senate elections as the party is on the brink of extinction in the House of Federation as all its four senators are set to retire on March 11.

Given the party position in all the four provincial legislatures and the National Assembly, it is unlikely that the PML-Q would win any seat in the Senate. However, political experts believe that with the recent political developments in Balochistan and after the election of PML-Q’s man as the provincial chief minister despite having a mere four members, the chances of the party’s getting one or two seats from the province cannot be ruled out.

The term-wise data of the senators shows that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as almost 70 per cent of its members — the largest number belonging to a single party — are set to retire this March after completion of their six-year term.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, Opposition Leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP’s parliamentary leader Taj Haider and the party’s spokesman and most vocal senator Farhatullah Babar are among the 18 members, out of 26 PPP senators, who will be retiring in March.

All four PML-Q senators set to retire in March

While the prospects for Mr Rabbani and Mr Haider to return to the Senate are bright due to the majority of the PPP in the Sindh Assembly, the party position in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demonstrates that it will be difficult for Mr Ahsan and Mr Babar to make it to the upper house again without reaching an understanding with other parties.

As far as the ruling PML-Nawaz is concerned, nine of the present 27 senators — mostly from Punjab — are due to retire this year. The most prominent among those retiring from the PML-N is self-exiled former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

The Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) and the PML-Functional are the other two parties that will lose representation in the Senate as two members of the BNP-A, including its chief Israrullah Zehri, and lone PML-F senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah are set to complete their six-year term. However, both these parties have chances to regain representation in the next Senate due to the party position in Balochistan and Sindh assemblies.

The four PML-Q senators retiring this March are the party’s recently nominated parliamentary leader Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel (Balochistan), former secretary general and now estranged party leader Mushahid Hussain Sayed (Islamabad), Kamil Ali Agha (Punjab) and Rubina Irfan (also from Balochistan).

Sources said that Senator Sayed, who is known for changing party loyalties, is set to get the PML-N ticket this time to get himself re-elected on the technocrat seat from Islamabad and that his negotiations with the PML-N leadership were in final stages.

The Awami National Party (ANP) will be the other big loser in terms of representation in the Senate as five out of six present senators are set to retire this year. The retiring ANP senators are Ilyas Ahmed Bilour, Shahi Syed and Baz Muhammad Khan from KP and Daud Achakzai and Zahida Khan from Balochistan.

Sitara Ayaz, elected on a woman seat from KP, is the only ANP senator due for retirement in March ’21.

Interestingly, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which got representation in the Senate for the first time in 2015, is set to almost double its representation. Its only senator, Azam Khan Swati, will be retiring in March. Mr Swati was elected on a general seat from KP that fell vacant due to the death of ANP’s Azam Khan Hoti in April 2015.

Four out of eight senators belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are also among the 52 senators retiring from the upper house. Those MQM members retiring in March are their parliamentary leader Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, chairperson of the Senate Functional Committee Nasreen Jalil, Dr Farogh Naseem and Maulana Tanveerul Haq Thanvi.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) presently has five senators and three of them are set to retire. Those retiring in March are Hafiz Hamdullah and Mufti Abdus Sattar, from Balochistan, and Talha Mehmood from KP.

No senator from Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), National Party (NP), BNP-Mengal and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) is retiring in March. Both PkMAP and NP have three members each whereas the BNP-M and JI have one member each in the Senate.

Besides this, there are five out of 10 independent senators who will have to vacate their seats. Mohsin Leghari, who had staged an upset in the 2013 elections when he managed to win the Senate seat as an independent from the Punjab Assembly, is the only senator besides the eight Fata senators who spent his whole six-year term without getting himself affiliated to any party. He, however, presently sits on the treasury benches.

The Senate comprises 104 members — 23 each from the four federating units, eight from 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 number 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.

The names of the other senators retiring on March 11 follow:

PPP: Mohammad Yousaf, Sardar Fateh Hasni, Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi and Rozi Kakar from Balochistan; Osman Saifullah Khan (Islamabad); Ahmad Hassan, Saifullah Bangash and Rubina Khalid (KP); Khalida Perveen (Punjab); Murtaza Wahab, Dr Karim Khawaja, Mukhtiar Dhamra, Sehar Kamran and Hari Ram (Sindh).

PML-N: Nisar Muhammad Khan (KP); Zafarullah Dhandla, Saud Majeed, Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, M Hamza, Dr Asif Kirmani, Nuzhat Sadiq, and Kamran Michael (Punjab).

BNP-A: Naseema Ehsan (Balochistan).

INDEPENDENTS: Hidayatullah, Hilalur Rehman, Malik Najamul Hassan and Saleh Shah (All from Fata).

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2018