• Clears Faisal Vawda, Saifullah Abro to contest election • Says SC decision on presidential reference binding • Minister rules out permission for Maryam Nawaz to travel abroad
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday finalised the list of his party’s candidates for the upcoming Senate polls, clearing reservations of party leaders against two nominees, Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda and Saifullah Abro.
However, a PTI leader from Khyber, Najeehullah, has been deprived of his ticket and instead another party man, Liaquat Tarakai, will contest the election.
Meanwhile, Farah Khan, who is said to be a friend of the prime minister’s wife, has also filed her nomination papers under her real name — Farhat Shahzadi — as a covering candidate.
The prime minister finalised the list at the PTI’s parliamentary party meeting held at his residence in Banigala.
Before the meeting, he also met Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and PTI’s Chief Organiser Saifullah Niazi.
When contacted, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said according to the final list, 21 PTI candidates would contest the Senate elections.
A total of 51 PTI members have filed their nomination papers for the elections.
The party had announced that it would field its ally Pakistan Muslim League-Q’s leader Kamil Ali Agha as a joint candidate. After including him, PTI’s total candidates come to 21. At present, it has seven senators, and if it wins all 21 seats in the forthcoming elections, the ruling party’s strength in the upper house will increase to 28.
According to the list, 10 candidates have been finalised from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
They are: Shibli Faraz, Mohsin Aziz, Zeeshan Khanzada, Faisal Saleem and Liaquat Tarakai for general seats, Dost Mohammad Mehsud and Dr Humayun Mohmand for technocrats’ seats, Sania Nishtar and Falak Naz Chitrali for women seats and Gurdeep Singh for a minorities seat.
From Sindh, Faisal Vawda will contest on a general seat and Saifullah Abro on a technocrat seat.
From Punjab, Saifullah Niazi, Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Aon Abbas Buppi have filed papers for general seats, Ali Zafar for a technocrat seat while Dr Zarqa will vie for a women’s seat.
Zahoor Agha is the only PTI candidate who will contest on a general seat from Balochistan.
Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh will be PTI’s candidate for general seat from Islamabad and Fauzia Arshad will contest for the women seat.
A source, who attended the meeting, told Dawn that senior PTI leaders from Sindh, including Imran Ismail, Asad Umar, Ali Zaidi and Firdous Naqvi, did not oppose Faisal Vawda’s nomination, rather endorsed his selection. Following their assertion, the prime minister brushed aside reservations of other PTI leaders against Mr Vawda and Mr Abro.
Party leaders who wrote letters to the Sindh governor against Mr Vawda and Mr Abro included Sadaqat Ali Jatoi, the brother of former Sindh chief minister Liaquat Jatoi, PTI Sukkur district President Mubeen Jatoi, Allah Bux Unnar and Raja Khan Jhakrani, former provincial secretary general Mehfooz Usrani, former candidate from NA-214 Shaheed Benazirabad Gul Mohammad Rind, former provincial minister Agha Taimoor Khan Pathan, Papu Khan Chachar and other office-bearers.
A total of 52 senators in the house of 104 will retire on March 11 after completing their six-year term. Among them are four of the eight senators from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
As the seats representing Fata will not be filled following the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018, the Senate’s strength has shrunk to 100.
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’s seats and two technocrats’ seats in the four provinces. Besides, election for one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.
Over 65 per cent of the senators who will be retiring on March 11 belong to the opposition parties.
Minister for Planning Asad Umar said the prime minister discussed the ruling party’s strategy for the Senate polls and the much-awaited decision of the Supreme Court on the presidential reference on open Senate vote.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan also called on the prime minister after the meeting and discussed matters pertaining to the upcoming Senate polls.
He said the prime minister was of the view that the party had awarded tickets in a transparent manner so that those who decide the fate of the people could not fix the price of the people’s vote.
The prime minister said the government had decided to approve the Supreme Court’s decision to close the door on horse trading and corruption in the Senate polls.
“The decision of the apex court will be binding on all,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.
He said for the first time in the history of the country a step had been taken to conduct fair and transparent elections. “After a video leak (in which some PTI MPAs were seen selling their votes in 2018 Senate polls) there is no room for holding elections through secret ballot,” he added.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said Prime Minister Khan has always stressed that the Senate elections should be held in a transparent manner.
In a statement, he said issues related to Senate elections were discussed during the meeting chaired by the prime minister.
He said members who were trustees of the vote of the electorate in the provinces should not cast their vote in a flawed way. Governments in the past had promoted the culture of money in politics, he added.
The minister said during a public meeting Maryam Nawaz accepted that the future of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was dark and expressed her desire to go abroad.
He said he could not understand why the Sharif family was afflicted with diseases that could not be treated in Pakistan. Maryam Nawaz was giving a message to specific circles to clear her way to travel abroad, he added.
Mr Faraz said the government would not allow Maryam Nawaz to go abroad, adding that Nawaz Sharif also went abroad for medical treatment but started politics there.
The minister said instead of issuing a passport, Nawaz Sharif would be given travel documents to enable him to return to the country.
Passport could not be given to a person who was wanted by law, he said, adding that the government could not facilitate Nawaz Sharif therefore he should go somewhere else.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021