LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday retained the Senate general seat in Punjab, albeit with difficulty, with a majority first priority vote in the Punjab Assembly.

It was not an easy contest for the ruling party that lost its three crucial votes to the PML-N candidate unlike the previous three parliamentary elections.

PTI’s Dr Shahzad Waseem secured the Senate seat with 181 votes, while PML-N candidate Khwaja Ahmed Hassaan bagged 169 votes including three votes polled by the ruling party MPAs. The PPP cast its seven votes to the PML-N as was already announced.

Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said the party would investigate and find out the three MPAs who voted for the PML-N candidate. “The PML-N was earlier crying hoarse over horse-trading but ended up doing so,” he said.

Ruling party loses its three votes to rival contender

PML-N MPA Waris Kallu, however, denied horse-trading and said his party did not contact any MPA. “The ruling party MPAs who voted for the PML-N did so with a clear conscience,” he added.

He levelled charges of rigging in the Senate election, saying the ruling party had closed the opposition’s door leading to the House, while the treasury’s door remained open.

PML-N MPAs Samiullah Khan and Azma Bukhari said the PTI was already facing a charge of rigging in the July 25 general election.

“The PML-N bagged seven PPP and three ruling party votes over and above its own strength of 159 votes in the Punjab Assembly,” Mr Khan said.

A total of 350 votes were polled in the election and one vote was cancelled. PTI MPA Salman Naeem was recently disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan for being under-age.

The Senate seat from Punjab was vacated by Chaudhry Sarwar who was later elevated as Punjab governor by PTI chairman Imran Khan.

In the March 3 Senate election on seven seats in Punjab, Mr Sarwar had sprung a surprise by securing 44 first priority votes despite the fact that the PTI had 30 votes to its credit. The then ruling PML-N’s all six winning candidates’ total votes had separately remained less than the votes bagged by Mr Sarwar.

The PML-N alleged that its 20 MPs deviated from party policy and voted for the PTI candidate and later identified some women MPAs who were later denied party nomination for reserved seats.

In the Punjab Assembly Speaker’s election, the PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Q joint nominee Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was elected with a thumping majority of 201 votes, while his opponent PML-N candidate Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar could get 147 votes. The House was reverberated with noisy “horse-trading” slogans.

Only two days later, the PTI’s nominated chief minister candidate Usman Buzdar had barely earned simple majority with 186 votes in the 371-member house. His rival PML-N candidate Hamza Shahbaz bagged 159 votes.

In the Presidential election, Dr Arif Alvi managed to win 11 PML-N votes as well. In the Punjab Assembly, Dr Alvi had secured 186 votes, whereas PML-N’s Fazlur Rehman and PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan received 141 and six votes, respectively. As many as 18 votes were rejected. Governor Sarwar congratulated Dr Waseem on his election as Senator of the PTI from Punjab. “Dr Waseem will represent people of Punjab in upper chamber of house. He will also work to strengthen federation of Pakistan,” Mr Sarwar tweeted.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also congratulated senator-elect Dr Shahzad Waseem.

The winning candidate pledged to take up the issues of Punjab in the Senate and solve the problems of the masses.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2018