The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) finalised the schedule for Senate elections on Monday, setting March 3 as the date of the polling.

A returning officer (RO) will issue a public notice on February 3, while nomination papers will be filed between February 4 and 6, the commission announced.

Following the scrutiny of nomination papers by February 9, a list of candidates will be issued on February 15, allowing candidates to withdraw nominations by the following day.

A formal notification by the commission will be issued on February 2.

A total of 52 Senators in the house of 104 are set to retire following the completion of their six-year term. The biggest loser of the exercise will be the PPP, whose 18 Senators, including Chairman Raza Rabbani, will be replaced by newcomers.

Nine Senators from the ruling PML-N are also among those retiring but the party is expected to gain seats by the exercise, despite the recent upheaval in Balochistan Assembly which saw PML-Q's Abdul Quddus Bizenjo replacing PML-N's Sanaullah Zehri for the chief minister slot.

“Asif Ali Zardari’s dinner for Balochistan CM Bizenjo and his cabinet depicts that the PPP has become a partner in the ‘joint venture’ [to oust the PML-N majority government] to secure a few seats in the Senate,” Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said regarding the development on Friday.

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