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Dar among PML-N candidates for Senate polls

Updated February 07, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Former finance minister Ishaq Dar is among the shortlisted candidates of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for the upcoming Senate elections, sources in the party told Dawn here on Tuesday.

The names of the candidates were shortlisted at a meeting of the newly-constituted 15-member parliamentary board presided over by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, Mahtab Ahmed, Amir Muqam, Hamza Shahbaz, Pervaiz Rashid and Musha­hidullah Khan attended the meeting.

The sources said the party leadership was considering giving one seat from Punjab to Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi or his nominee. Pir Sialvi, who was a member of the Senate in 1980s, has recently withdrawn his call for a countrywide protest against Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on the Khatm-i-Nubuwat issue.

The sources said self-exiled former finance minister Ishaq Dar was the first priority of the leadership, but keeping in view the possible legal and technical challenges which Mr Dar could face at the time of scrutiny of his papers, the party leadership was considering the option of asking his son Ali Dar to also file the papers as a covering candidate.

The 67-year-old Dar, who is currently in London undergoing medical treatment, had been declared an absconder by an accountability court in December last year in a corruption reference after he repeatedly failed to join the trial. He is being probed on charges of amassing assets beyond his known sources of income.

The sources said that Mr Sharif after consulting the party leadership left for Lahore to have a final consultation with his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Before leaving for Lahore, Mr Sharif also met Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party president Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who assured his party’s complete cooperation to the PML-N in the Senate elections.

According to the sources, prominent shortlisted PML-N candidates are Dr Asif Kirmani, Saud Majeed, Haroon Akhtar, Tehmina Daultana, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Tariq Fatemi, Kamran Michael, Pir Sabir Shah, Zafar Dhandla and Nuzhat Sadiq.

“Yes, Ishaq Dar’s name is on the list of the possible party ticket-holders for the Senate elections,” Raja Zafarul Haq told Dawn after the meeting.

In reply to a question, he said they had sought the opinion from the legal team of the party and they were of the view that the physical presence of the candidate at the time of election was not necessary.

Mr Haq said the party had received some 114 applications for the tickets only from Punjab, from where the party is expected to win all the seats. He said the list of candidates might be announced in a day or two.

Mr Sharif has called another meeting of the parliamentary board on Wednesday to finalise the party tickets.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already announced the election schedule, according to which Feb 8 is the last date for submission of the nomination papers whereas the polling will be held on March 3.

Despite winning the largest number of seats during the 2015 Senate elections, the PML-N had to face great difficulties in the upper house where opposition parties led by the Pakistan Peoples Party remained the key players. However, the PML-N this time hopes that it will be in the driving seat in the Senate after the March elections.

The PML-N is expected to have a clean sweep in Punjab by winning all the 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.

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

At present, the PML-N has 27 senators and nine will be retiring in March. Ishaq Dar, veteran politician Mohammad Hamza, Saud Majeed and Dr Asif Kirmani are among those PML-N senators retiring on March 11.

The party is expected to win at least 15 seats and its total membership in the upper house can reach 33. The PML-N having 16 MPAs in the KP Assembly is expected to win one seat from the province whereas its fate in Balochistan is uncertain.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2018