ISLAMABAD: Despite suffering a political setback in Balochistan, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is all set to become the single largest party in the Senate after 18 years.

A careful calculation done on the basis of the party position in the National Assembly and the four provincial legislatures, which form the constituencies for the elections of members of the upper house, shows that if all MPAs vote in accordance with the party policy during the March 3 elections, then the PML-N will surely obtain more than 30 seats in the 104-member house.

Last week the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued the schedule for the Senate polls according to which polling will be held on March 3. The commission withheld the schedule for four Senate seats from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and two from Islamabad as President Mamnoon Hussain was yet to extend the Elections Act 2017 to Fata and determine the manner for Senate seats from the tribal areas through different orders. On Sunday, the ECP announced that the polling for two seats from the capital city will also be held on March 3.

Therefore, on March 3, polling will be held to elect 48 senators (instead of 52) — 12 each from Punjab and Sindh, 11 each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balo­chistan and two from Islamabad.

PML-Q, PML-F, BNP-A may lose representation in upper house after March 3 polls

Since the composition of all provincial assemblies is more or less the same when the last Senate election was held in 2015, political experts believe that the results this time will also remain more or less the same, except in Balochistan.

It is always difficult to predict the outcome of Senate election in Balochistan due to complex and multi-dimensional politics in the province, where even independent candidates always have a chance to win the elections due to their personal influence or alleged practice of vote buying. And the recent change in the government in Balochistan has even made it more difficult for political experts to predict the results.

The PML-N is expected to have a clean sweep in Punjab by winning all 12 seats, including reserved seats for women, technocrats and minorities, due to its absolute majority in the provincial assembly. The PML-N has 310 MPAs in the 371-member Punjab Assembly, followed by 30 MPAs from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

However, some political experts believe that if the opposition parties agree on a consensus candidate and also succeed in winning over support of a few PML-N MPAs, they can manage to win one seat from Punjab.

Similarly, the PML-N is all set to win both the seats from Islamabad — one general and one technocrat seat. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who is among the four PML-Q senators retiring in March and who is known for changing his loyalties, is all set to become senator again from Islamabad on the PML-N ticket.

At present, the PML-N has 27 senators and nine of them will retire in March. The party is expected to win at least 15 seats and its total membership in the upper house is likely to rise up to 33.

The PML-N, having 16 MPAs in the KP Assembly, is expected to win one seat from the province.

The PML-Q is fighting a battle for its survival because the party is on the brink of extinction from the Senate as all its four senators will retire on March 11.

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

The PTI, which got representation in the Senate for the first time in 2015, is expected to double its strength after the March elections. The PTI is expected to win six out of 11 seats from the KP Assembly, where the party is ruling with 61 MPAs. Since the PTI and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) are ruling coalition partners in the province, the two parties can have an understanding on the distribution of seats and there is a possibility that the JI may also get one Senate seat from KP. At present, JI chief Sirajul Haq is the lone party senator.

Besides the PTI and the JI, there are chances that the PPP and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) may also win one seat each from KP. However, the chances of the Awami National Party and the Qaumi Watan Party getting any seat from KP are minimal.

In Sindh, the PPP is expected to win eight seats, out of the 12, as the party enjoys the support of 94 MPAs in the 168-member provincial assembly. The contest for the remaining four seats will be interesting in the aftermath of the division within the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has 50 MPAs. It is believed that if the MQM remains united under Dr Farooq Sattar, then the party can easily obtain the remaining four seats. Otherwise, the PML-F, which is facing extinction from the Senate, may regain its seat.

The PPP will be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as 18 out of its 26 senators are set to retire in March. The party is expected to win nine seats in the coming elections and its total membership in the upper house is likely to drop to 17.

The JUI-F is also expected to lose its position in the upper house. Three of its five senators are retiring in March and given the party position in the provincial assemblies, it is expected to get only two seats.

Keeping in view the previous results, it is expected that the two nationalist parties -- Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the National Party -- will be able to improve their representation in the Senate. Both the parties presently have three senators each and none of them is retiring this year. In the next elections, both the parties are expected to win three seats each from Balochistan and, therefore, their strength is expected to be doubled in the Senate.

The new senators will take oath on March 12.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2018



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