LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stands divided on whether to take part in the forthcoming Senate polls or not as one group supports the Pakistan Peoples Party’s stance that the field must not be left open to the ruling party, while the other advocates boycotting the contest seeing meagre benefit for the party.
The N League has so far been calling for tendering resignations from all elected houses and not contesting any polls as part of building up pressure for the ouster of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf from power corridors.
Of late, it hinted at flexibility in its stance when the PPP, wary of rollback of the 18th Amendment if the Upper House is left open for the PTI, suggested that the opposition parties should remain in the field and rather contest by-polls for various seats of provincial assemblies to improve their chances for the Senate elections.
Background interviews with various PML-N elders reveal that some people close to vice president Maryam Nawaz are vigorously canvassing for contesting the elections for the Upper House of the bicameral parliament likely to be held in the first fortnight of March when six-year term of 52 out of 104 senators is going to expire.
With its current strength (165 MPAs) in the Punjab Assembly (as provincial assemblies serve as the electoral college for the Senate polls), the party may win four general seats of the Upper House for Punjab.
Senators Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervaiz Rashid and Mushahidullah Khan are among those members who are retiring after completing their six-year term this March. It may be difficult for the leadership to ignore their services for the party and not award them tickets for the next term.
For the one seat left there are many hopefuls both from Punjab and other provinces. The N League has already accommodated Mushahidullah Khan, Nihal Hashmi and Saleem Zia — all three belonging to Karachi — from the Punjab quota in the previous Senate polls as they had got transferred their votes to Punjab cities, Rawalpindi, Jhelum and Murree, respectively, to be eligible for the electoral bout.
A couple of more leaders have got transferred their votes to Punjab for the forthcoming contest too and are lobbying with the leadership for winning party ticket for the contest.
Those opposing the move, mostly from Punjab and spearheaded by a parliamentarian from Sheikhupura, argue that the party has not much to lose if it boycotts the Senate elections. They assert that even after winning all the four general seats from Punjab it will be unable to retain the office of leader of opposition in the Senate. And in all cases it will have to compromise with the PPP and others for lawmaking in the Upper House even if it comes to power as a result of ouster of the PTI government.
Therefore, they believe that the party must stick to its principled stance of resigning from all elected houses as part of pressing the Imran Khan government to resign instead of exploring other options.
Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2021