ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party on Sunday finally decided to give up the secured Senate chairmanship offered by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and announced its support for an independent candidate from Balochistan for the post while fielding its candidate for the office of deputy chairman in the election to be held on Monday (today).
The announcement by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that the party will support Sadiq Sanjrani and Saleem Mandviwala for the top Senate slots — a move seen by many as an effort to appease the establishment ahead of the upcoming general elections — has made it clear that the game is over for Raza Rabbani and that Asif Ali Zardari is actually calling the shots in the party.
The Sanjrani-Mandviwala panel also has the support of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
When Mr Bhutto-Zardari was making the announcement in the presence of Balochistan chief minister and some PPP leaders, Mr Rabbani was present inside Zardari House where he had been invited to a dinner for the newly-elected senators.
PML-N yet to disclose names of its candidates for chairman and deputy to be elected today
Asked about the reason behind supporting an independent candidate and opting for deputy chairman’s office despite having the opportunity to grab the chairman’s office, a PPP leader from Lahore called it ‘a very intelligent move by Mr Zardari’ and said this way the party would have both the offices with it despite losing its status of the largest party in the Senate.
The ruling PML-N and its allies are yet to announce their candidates and a spokesman for the ruling party told Dawn that Nawaz Sharif had convened another meeting of the allies at 10.30am on Monday after which they would make the announcement of their candidates.
Sources in the PML-N privy to the developments told Dawn that both their candidates would be from the smaller provinces. They said the leadership had almost decided that the office of the chairman would be retained by the PML-N whereas the deputy chairman office would go to Balochistan. However, they said a final decision would be announced on Monday just before the election.
If these utterances by the PML-N leaders are to be believed, then the names of Senator Mushahidullah Khan, Hasil Bizenjo and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri are considered to be favourites for the two offices. Though Mr Khan has been elected on a general seat from Punjab, he originally hails from Sindh. Previously, the names of Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervez Rashid and Mushahid Hussain Sayed — all from Punjab — were also in circulation in the media and political circles.
The Sanjrani-Mandviwala panel also has the support of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and their formal nomination by the PPP has now made the Monday’s contest for the top slots of the 104-member upper house of parliament tougher, with no party enjoying an absolute majority.
The PPP chairman while talking to reporters outside Zardari House on Sunday evening expressed the hope that his party would succeed in the Monday’s elections for the office of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman. He, however, evaded a question regarding the number of votes the party has in the 104-member Senate.
When asked about the parties and groups which had assured the PPP of their support in the election, the chairman said: “It will be cheating. The PML-N will come to know about our numbers.”
Asked about the reason for not accepting the PML-N offer, the PPP chairman called Mr Rabbani an asset for the party and said: “I have assigned a task to Raza Rabbani and I have another plan for him.”
Earlier, Mr Bhutto-Zardari told the media that the party had decided to support the senator-elect from Balochistan keeping in view the sense of deprivation among the people of the province. He admitted that the problems faced by the people would not be solved merely by having the Senate chairman office but it would indeed be a positive step towards that direction.
The Balochistan chief minister, who accompanied the PPP chairman, thanked the party for the “sacrifice” for the rights of the smaller provinces and said the PPP despite having a majority in the upper house extended its support to them for which the people of his province would remain thankful.
Responding to another question, Mr Bizenjo said the PTI had assured them that they would vote for the PPP’s nominee Saleem Mandviwala for the post of Senate deputy chairman.
While talking to Dawn, the outgoing chairman of Senate, Raza Rabbani, said the party’s decision was acceptable to him and he had no hard feelings for the party leadership or any individual. He said he was a flower of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and would continue to work for the party. He categorically denied the reports in some circles that he might not take oath as senator due to the party’s act of ‘ditching’ him, saying that there was no truth in such reports.
Earlier during the day, PML-N’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif held a final consultative meeting with the party allies — Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) and National Party (NP) — to finalise the strategy for the Monday’s election for the top Senate offices.
PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan told reporters that the names of the candidates would be announced by Mr Sharif himself on Monday morning as they had decided to give some time to the PPP to accept their offer and nominate Mr Rabbani.
He, however, had stated that in case the PPP announced the names of its candidates in the evening, they might disclose the names of their candidates in the night. However, till filing of this report, no names had been announced by the PML-N and its allies.
A PML-N delegation, headed by Raja Zafarul Haq, also met Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq in Islamabad and sought their support for their candidates. JI’s spokesman Shahid Shamsi told Dawn that his party would inform the PML-N about their decision on Monday morning after holding an in-house consultation.
The JI had earlier announced that the party would support Mr Rabbani if nominated by the PPP for the office of the Senate chairman.
Just two days back, the PTI had announced that it would vote for neither the PPP nor the PML-N’s nominees in the election for Senate chairman. The following day the PTI changed its stance and declared that it was ready to back the PPP’s candidate for the election of Senate’s deputy chairman. On Sunday, PTI chief Imran Khan said as per their promise to the Balochistan chief minister, they would support the PPP’s candidate for the deputy chairman.
The current party position in Senate shows that PML-N (33) and its allies — JUI-F (4), PkMAP (5), NP (5) and PML-F (1) — enjoys the support of 48 members in the new Senate whereas the opposition group comprising the PPP (20), PTI (12) and seven independents from Balochistan have 39 senators on their side.
However, it will be a closely contested election as the support of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with five senators, eight independent senators from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) with two members, besides one senator of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Awami National Party (ANP) each will be the decisive factor.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2018