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LAHORE: The PML-N has identified its 28 MPAs, mostly women, who allegedly voted for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PPP candidates in Senate elections in Punjab, Dawn has learnt.

The party leadership had formed two committees to identify the ‘suspects’ in its ranks who violated the party policy and voted for PTI’s Chaudhry Sarwar and PPP’s Shahzad Ali Khan in March 3 Senate polls on a general seat in Punjab.

Sarwar and Khan bagged 44 and 26 votes, respectively, (14 and 18 more than their parties’ strength in the Punjab Assembly), raising questions as to how they managed to get support of the PML-N legislators.

One of the committees had representation of law minister Rana Sanaullah, minorities affairs minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu and adviser to the chief minister Rana Arshad, while the other comprised women legislators - Azma Bokhari, Zakia Shahnawaz, Mary Gill and Mahwish Sultana. The bodies were asked to submit their reports to the party leadership.

“We have identified 28 suspects who voted for the PPP and PTI candidates and submitted a comprehensive report to the leadership. Most of the suspects are women MPAs. Now it is up to the leadership what action it takes against them,” a PML-N insider privy to the development told Dawn on Thursday. He said some of the ‘suspects’ had voted for the opposition candidates for money and others to have a ‘future understanding’, especially with the PTI.

Another source said the party leadership had decided not to take any punitive action against these MPAs as this was not the right time because the PML-N government was faced with a plethora of challenges.

“The suspected MPAs will not be considered for the party tickets on general or reserved seats in forthcoming general election,” he said and pinpointed (in the report) an interesting aspect in the voting pattern in the Senate polls in Punjab on seats of different categories.

“On women seats 13 votes were rejected, on minority 11 and on technocrat seats nine, while only three votes were rejected on general seats, showing that there was a method in ‘wasting’ the votes in the three categories in which the PML-N candidates could have an easy victory.

Chaudhry Sawar had claimed that the PML-N lawmakers voted for him according to their “conscience and democratic mindset”, while PPP senior vice president Mian Manzoor Wattoo said he roped in 20 or so PML-N MPAs “mere on his connections” for his relative (Shahzad Khan).

The source said that since MNA Hamza Shahbaz, son of new PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif, was focal person for coordination for the Senate polls, the Shahbaz’s camp was not interested in launching any probe into the matter because at the end of the day it was a failure on the part of Hamza and company.

However, he said, Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif, was keen to identify the suspects. PML-N’s UK chapter head Zubair Gul, who usually looks after Nawaz Sharif and his family members during their stay in London, lost the Senate seat to Chaudhry Sarwar. PML-N had lost only one Senate seat out of the 12 in Punjab.

When contacted, Rana Sanaullah expressed his ignorance about the committees’ constitution and recommendations.

On Wednesday, politicians of different parties failed to produce any evidence before the Election Commission to prove their allegations of ‘horse-trading’ and use of money in the Senate polls.

Taking notice of reports in the media about alleged horse-trading in the March 3 Senate elections, the ECP had summoned PTI chief Imran Khan, State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb, adviser to the prime minister Amir Muqam, leaders of two factions of the MQM-P, Dr Farooq Sattar and Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Pak Sarzameen Party’s (PSP) Raza Haroon, MNA from Fata Shahabuddin and PML-N MPA from Punjab Azma Bokhari who had issued statements questioning the fairness of the exercise.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2018