ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday quashed rumours about the uncertain fate of the upcoming Senate polls by announcing that the election for 52 of the total 104 seats of the upper house of parliament would be held on March 3.
While the schedule for the Senate elections is to be officially announced on Feb 2, the ECP in an unusual move provided to the media details of the schedule approved by it.
According to the ECP, the returning officer will issue a public notice on Feb 3 inviting nomination papers which can be filed during office hours till Feb 6. After completing scrutiny of the nomination papers by Feb 9, a list of valid candidates will be issued on Feb 15. The candidates will be allowed to withdraw nominations by Feb 16.
Fifty-two senators are set to complete their six-year term on March 11 and the newly elected senators will take oath of their office on March 12.
Fifty-two new senators to be elected on March 3
The Senate comprises 104 members — 23 members from each of the four provinces, eight from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and four from Islamabad Capital Territory. Each province has 14 general and nine reserved seats. Among the reserved seats, four are reserved for women and an equal number of seats for technocrats while one seat is reserved for a non-Muslim community member.
While the total term for a senator is six years, half of the senators retire after every three years. The Senate elections depend on the numerical strength of political parties in the national and provincial assemblies.
Four of the provincial assemblies vote for their representatives. Senators from Islamabad are elected by the National Assembly, whereas Fata senators are elected by MNAs from Fata.
A person seeking election to the Senate should not be less than 30 years of age and should be registered as a voter in an area or province from where he or she seeks election and should meet other qualifications prescribed under Article 62 of the Constitution.
Prominent among those retiring on March 11 are incumbent Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, defunct finance minister Ishaq Dar, leader of opposition in the Senate Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP parliamentary leader Taj Haider, PTI parliamentary leader Azam Khan Swati and MQM parliamentary leader retired Col Tahir Hussain Mashhadi and spokesman for former president Asif Ali Zardari and a vocal senator known for candidly speaking on the issues others normally avoid, Farhatullah Babar.
All four Pakistan Muslim League-Q senators, nine of the 27 PML-N senators, 18 of the 26 PPP senators, five of the six Awami National Party senators, four of the eight Muttahida Qaumi Movement senators, two Balochistan National Party-Awami senators, three of the five Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F senators, five of the 10 independent senators and one senator of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PML-Functional each are set to retire on March 11 after completion of their six-year term.
All the four PML-Q senators — the 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) will retire this year. 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 polls, but political experts believe that after the election of PML-Q’s man as Balochistan’s chief minister despite having a mere four members strength, the chances of the party’s getting one or two seats from the province cannot be ruled out.
The term-wise data of PPP senators shows that almost 70 per cent of its members — the largest number belonging to a single party in the Senate — are set to retire this 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 makes it difficult for Mr Ahsan and Mr Babar to be re-elected. Other PPP senators retiring in March are 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).
The nine PML-N senators who will complete their term in March are Ishaq Dar, Nisar Muhammad Khan (KP); Zafarullah Dhandla, Saud Majeed, Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, M Hamza, Dr Asif Kirmani, Nuzhat Sadiq, and Kamran Michael (Punjab).
The PTI which has one senator is set to almost double its representation in the polls. Its only senator Azam Khan 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 MQM senators retiring in March are the party’s parliamentary leader Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Nasreen Jalil, Dr Farogh Naseem and Maulana Tanveerul Haq Thanvi.
The PML-F and BNP-A have chances to regain representation in the next Senate due to their party position in Balochistan and Sindh assemblies.
Five ANP set to retire this year are Ilyas Ahmed Bilour, Shahi Syed and Baz Mohammad Khan from KP and Daud Achakzai and Zahida Khan from Balochistan. Sitara Ayaz, elected on a seat reserved for women, is the only ANP senator who will retire in 2021.
Three JUI-F members 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, five of the 10 independent senators completing their term this year are Mohsin Leghari, Hidayatullah, Hilalur Rehman, Malik Najamul Hassan and Saleh Shah (all from Fata).
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2018