Ziauddin
Ziauddin

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is set to become the single largest party in the Senate after the upcoming elections in March, but it will certainly not be able to gain control of the upper house of parliament and will still have to rely on its allies and opposition parties even for carrying out simple legislation.

A careful calculation done on the basis of the party position in the National Assembly and all the four provincial legislatures, which form the constituencies for the elections of the members of the upper house, and keeping in mind the complicated voting system, shows that if all the MPAs vote strictly in accordance with the party policy during the elections, then the country is going to have a completely hung Senate as both the ruling and opposition alliances are expected to have almost exactly the equal number of seats.

As many as 52 senators are set to retire — 50 per cent of the 104-member house — on March 11 after completing their six-year tenure. However, this time there will be no polling for the four seats of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) after its merger with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Therefore, polling will be held to elect 48 senators — 12 each from KP and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad. Polling will be held to elect seven members on general seats, two women and two technocrats in the four provinces. Besides this, the election on one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.

Ruling party will need support of both allies and opposition for legislation

When the MPAs will elect senators from respective provinces, members of the National Assembly will be voting to elect a senator on general seat and the other on a woman seat from Islamabad.

The government has already moved a presidential reference in the Supreme Court and tabled a constitution amendment bill in parliament seeking an open vote for the Senate. The Supreme Court is yet to take a decision on the reference, whereas the opposition parties have already announced that they will not support such a move from the government at a time when the elections are just a month away.

However, whatever method is adopted for the Senate polls, the calculations based on the party position in all the legislatures reveal that if all the legislators vote in line with the policy of their respective parties and according to their conscience, the ruling PTI is expected to win 21 seats, followed by six seats each by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and five by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the upcoming Senate elections. And if it happens, the PTI will become the single largest party in the new Senate with 28 senators, followed by the PPP with 19, PML-N with 17 and BAP with 13 senators.

However, the number of PTI seats can vary as the party is also set to have seat adjustment with its allies in different provinces. There are reports that the PTI has already agreed to allow the PML-Q to nominate its one or two candidates from Punjab. And if the agreement materialises, the PML-Q will once again get representation in the Senate after six years.

The PTI is expected to sweep the elections in KP where the party has been ruling for the past eight years. Due to its comfortable majority in the provincial assembly, the PTI expects to win 10 out of 12 seats. The remaining two seats can go to the opposition parties and both the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have chances to win one seat each. If it happens, the ANP will manage to retain its representation in the Senate as its lone and dissident member Sitara Ayaz is set to retire on March 11.

In Punjab, the PTI is set to win six seats, including four general seats. The party is expected to get two seats from Sindh and one from Balochistan, besides winning both the seats from Islamabad.

While the PML-N is expected to see its senators getting elected only from Punjab, the PPP will also get representation in the Senate this time only from Sindh, where it has been ruling since 2008.

The urban Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) can easily clinch a general seat due to its 21 MPAs in Sindh Assembly. However, more seats for the party depend on its understanding with the PTI and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) as both the parties are part of the ruling alliance at the Centre.

It is always difficult to predict the outcome of Senate election in Balochistan due to complex and multi-dimensional politics in the province, where even independent candidates always have a chance to win the elections due to their personal influence or alleged practice of vote buying.

This time, however, the picture is much clearer with BAP, the ruling party in the province, set to win six Senate seats. The remaining seats may be divided among the JUI-F and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) keeping in view their strength in the provincial assembly. The ANP also has a chance to win a seat from the province with the support of other nationalist parties.

The present Senate, which is also known as the House of Federation, comprises 104 members — 23 each from the four federating units, eight from formerly Fata, and four from Islamabad. The 23 seats allocated to a province comprise 14 general seats, four reserved for women, four for technocrats and one for minority member.

The term of a senator is six years but 50 per cent of the total number retires after every three years and elections are held for new senators. Elections to fill the seats allocated to each province are held in accordance with the “system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote”. Therefore, the Senate elections always depend on the party positions in the four provincial assemblies and the National Assembly.

The term-wise data of senators shows that the PML-N will be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as 59pc of its members — the largest number belonging to a single party — are set to retire. Out of its 29 present senators, 17 are set to retire in March.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2021

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