ISLAMABAD: Two technocrats each from Punjab and Balochistan are set to be elected unopposed as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday completed the process of scrutiny of nomination papers filed by candidates from all over the country to contest for 48 seats of the Senate, for which polling would be held on March 3.
The statistical data shows that the ECP had received a total of 170 nomination papers. It rejected 25 of them on different grounds whereas three candidates have withdrawn from the race. Since the candidature of Mushahidullah Khan of the PML-N has become “infructuous” after his death, the total number of valid nomination papers with the ECP is now 141.
When the opposition parties, which have decided to jointly contest the elections from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) suffered a setback due to rejection of the nomination papers of a sitting PML-N senator and former information minister Pervaiz Rasheed in Lahore, it received a success in Islamabad where the returning officer accepted the nomination papers of PPP’s Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani for a general seat and rejected the objections to his candidature that had been filed by a covering candidate for federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who is a nominee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
In Lahore, the returning officer rejected the nomination papers of Mr Rasheed over his failure to clear outstanding dues of the Punjab House in Islamabad where he had been staying from time to time for the past 10 years.
Technocrats from Punjab, Balochistan likely to return unopposed; 141 stay in race after rejection, withdrawal of 28 papers; Pervaiz Rasheed’s papers rejected
Refuting the charges, Mr Rasheed announced that he would challenge the rejection of his papers before the election tribunal. Mr Rasheed told the media that bogus claims of booking of Punjab House rooms had been created against him to keep him out of the Senate race.
He claimed that he had carried cash to pay for these “bogus bills” worth Rs9.5 million, but no Punjab House official was available to receive it from him.
Meanwhile, PML-N’s Azam Nazeer Tarar and PTI’s Syed Ali Zafar are set to be elected unopposed against two seats of technocrats from Punjab after withdrawal of papers by a third candidate, Attaullah Khan. The candidate withdrew from the race after objections were raised that he had been serving as an engineering contractor for some government projects and had not completed the two-year mandatory break period to qualify for contesting for a public office.
For two women seats from Punjab, there are three candidates in the run. They are Saadia Abbasi and Saira Afzal Tarar of the PML-N and Zarqa Soharwardi of the PTI.
Similarly, in Balochistan Saeed Ahmed Hashmi of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Kamran Murtaza of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) are set to return unopposed on the two technocrat seats from the province, if things go according to the plan. As many as eight candidates had submitted papers to contest for the two technocrat seats from the province. However, after rejection of the papers of five candidates, now three candidates have been left in the race.
Besides Mr Hashmi and Mr Murtaza, Sajid Tareen of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP) has also filed the papers for the technocrats’ seats. However, according to the agreed seat adjustment formula, Mr Tareen will withdraw his nomination papers and would contest on general seat where his nomination papers have been accepted. If the election tribunal does not accept papers of the rejected candidates, Mr Hashmi and Mr Murtaza would be elected unopposed.
A total of 51 candidates had submitted their nomination papers for the 12 seats in the Senate elections from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with 27 of them belonging to the ruling PTI. However, the ECP rejected nomination papers of 11 candidates on different grounds leaving 40 candidates in the race.
Senator Sajjad Hussain Turi, presently PTI’s chief whip in the upper house, is among those whose papers were rejected for the general seat. An ECP spokesperson said Mr Turi did not appear before the commission, which led to his disqualification.
Mr Turi later told Dawn that he did not pursue his nomination papers. Another PTI candidate Aurangzeb Khan also did not appear before the returning officer while Najab Gul’s papers were rejected for lacking proposer and seconder.
On women seats, four of seven PTI ticket holders did not appear before the returning officer, which led to the rejection of their papers.
On technocrats’ seat, candidatures of PTI ticket aspirant Hamidul Haq, JUI-F’s Zuhair Ali, PML-N’s Rehan Alam and independence candidate Nasrullah Khan were rejected for lacking the required experience.
In Islamabad, the nomination papers of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani were accepted after the commission rejected the objection to his papers that had been raised by a PTI-backed candidate Fareed Rehman, who is actually the covering candidate for federal Finance Minister Dr Shaikh.
The PTI’s candidate had claimed that Mr Gillani had concealed his conviction in the nomination papers and that he had been disqualified for life from contesting the elections to the parliament. The commission, however, rejected the objection, quoting Article 63 of the Constitution, according to which the bar was only for a period of five years.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman talked to Mr Gillani over telephone and congratulated him on acceptance of his nomination papers.
A one-to-one contest between PTI’s Dr Hafeez Shaikh and former prime minister Mr Gillani is expected on the only general seat from the capital. Dr Shaikh, who is presently serving in the federal cabinet, had previously served in the same position when Mr Gillani was the prime minister.
The competition between Mr Gillani and Mr Shaikh has acquired great significance because of the party position in the National Assembly where the ruling alliance has a majority of just 20 votes. The PDM leadership believes that Mr Gillani can secure the seat if he runs his campaign seriously as there are reports that many in the ruling alliance are unhappy over the leadership’s decision to award ticket to Dr Shaikh, who is considered an outsider and known as “parachuter” in the PTI ranks.
In Karachi, the ECP approved nomination papers of a total of 35 candidates for 11 seats in three different categories. The PPP led the number of nominations with 14 nominees for 13 candidates, followed by PTI with 12 and MQM Pakistan with 10 nominations.
According to the amended election schedule, appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers will be filed on Feb 19 and 20 and will be decided on Feb 22 and 23.
Meanwhile, the commission has fined eight parliamentarians for violating the code of conduct in the by-polls for NA-75, Sialkot.
Amjad Mehmood in Lahore, Manzoor Ali in Peshawar, Saleem Shahid in Quetta and Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2021