Treasury, opposition promise big surprise in today’s Senate polls

Published March 3, 2021
All eyes are set on the Senate elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to be held today with both treasury and opposition benches claiming to give each other a big surprise. — AFP/File
All eyes are set on the Senate elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to be held today with both treasury and opposition benches claiming to give each other a big surprise. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: All eyes are set on the Senate elections in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to be held today (Wednesday) with both treasury and opposition benches claiming to give each other a big surprise.

Sources close to the opposition parties told Dawn that while the combined opposition would comfortably win two general seats, they were poised to win the seats reserved for technocrats and women, too, with the third general seat being contested by PML-N’s Abbas Afridi turning out to be a cliff-hanger.

“We have the numbers,” a senior opposition lawmaker said, denying the treasury’s accusations of attempts by their rivals to buy votes.

He wondered if there was a rift within the ruling PTI though it had two-thirds majority in the house and some of its members were not happy with the government and wanted to vote for the opposition nominees, who could stop them.

There are 23 candidates for 12 seats from KP

The government, however, insisted that their house was in order and there was no chance of any of its members switching sides to vote for the opposition candidates.

“Everything is under control,” a treasury member said.

The ruling PTI and opposition parties in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly have chalked out strategies for the Senate polls scheduled to be held today (Wednesday).

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the polling will begin at 9am and last until 4pm.

Members of the ECP staff have also taken over the assembly hall to use it as polling stations and carried out the necessary arrangements to prepare it for polling day.

A total of 23 candidates from both sides are running for 12 Senate seats from the province.

A source told Dawn that the ruling party’s lawmakers would gather at the Chief Minister’s House in the morning before leaving for the provincial assembly.

He said the PTI had formed at least five panels of lawmakers to vote for its Senate nominees with ministers as their heads, while the candidate of the government’s ally, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), would take care of its affairs by itself.

The source said local government minister Akbar Ayub Khan, government spokesperson Kamran Khan Bangash, labour minister Shaukat Yousafzai, Speaker of the provincial assembly Mushtaq Ghani and chief minister’s aide Taj Mohammad Khan would lead their respective panels from the Chief Minister’s House to the assembly hall.

JUI-F provincial information secretary Abdul Jalil Jan told Dawn that the opposition parties would sit down on Tuesday night to chalk out their strategy at an undisclosed location, where they would form panels of their lawmakers to vote for their candidates.

He said the opposition parties had agreed on the fielding of three candidates on general seats and one each for women’s and technocrats seats.

Mr Jan said JUI-F Maulana Attaur Rehman, Awami National Party’s Haji Hidayatullah Khan and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Abbas Afridi would contest for general seats for the province, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farhatullah Babar for technocrats’ seat and Jamaat-i-Islami’s Inayat Begum on the women’s seat.

He said though the provincial government was trying to secure votes for its candidates, some treasury members were in contact with the opposition parties.

Also on Tuesday, Tariq Khattak and Naeema Kishwar, JUI-F Senate aspirants for general and women seats, retired from the contest leaving 23 candidates behind.

Five PTI candidates, including federal information minister Syed Shibli Faraz, Faisal Saleem Rehman, Mohsin Aziz, Zeeshan Khanzada and Liaqat Khan Tarakai, are contesting for general seats from the province. On technocrat seats, the ruling party’s Dost Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Humayun Khan Mohmand are in the running and Sania Nishtar and Falak Naz on the women’s seat.

Also, Taj Mohammad Afridi, a sitting senator, is contesting election on the BAP ticket for general seat. He is backed by the ruling party in return for the votes of his party’s four members for the PTI’s candidates on women and technocrats’ seats.

The PTI has 94 members in the 145-strong KP Assembly followed by the JUI-F’s 15, ANP’s 12, PML-N’s seven, PPP’s five, Pakistan Muslim League’s one, BAP’s four and four independents.

The minimum winning threshold for the general seats is being put between 17 and 18 votes, while the required number is 49 for the technocrat and women seats and 73 for minority seat.

The opposition parties’ strength in the house is 42, while the PTI and its ally, BAP, has 99 members.

Faisal Zaman and Ahtesham Javed, two independents, along with PML-N’s Mufti Obaidullah also announced support for PTI candidates in the elections. Amjad Afridi, another independent, has announced the joining of the ruling party.

Sources said two PPP members would vote for the general candidates of JUI-F and ANP each, while PML-N’s candidate besides seven votes of his own party was likely to get two more votes.

The opposition leaders are confident of bagging two general and a women and technocrat’s and the same calculation compelled them to reject a government offer for two general seats over the election of all candidates unopposed.

Meanwhile, the city police have made a plan to ensure security during the Senate polls.

In a statement issued here, they said a total of 274 police personnel and officers would be deployed for the purpose.

They said they had put up special checkpoints at the entry and exit points of the city, while patrolling by the mobile and rider squads had been increased in the city.

The police said armed personnel carriers would also be deployed at important buildings, while quick response force had been assigned duties to meet any emergency.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2021

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