All eyes now on election of Senate chairman

Published March 4, 2021
In this file photo, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani visits the hall of the house. — White Star
In this file photo, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani visits the hall of the house. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: After completion of the much-hyped Senate election process, all eyes are now set on the coming election for the key offices of chairman and deputy chairman of the upper house.

After staging an upset in the Senate elections, the opposition parties have managed to retain their majority in the upper house of parliament and are now hopeful of getting the top offices of chairman and deputy chairman for which elections through secret balloting will be held on March 12.

As expected, a hung Senate emerged after Wednesday’s much-hyped elections on 48 seats of the upper house of parliament as the opposition and the ruling alliances now have 53 and 47 members, respectively, in the 100-member new Senate.

Though the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has not formally announced its candidates for the two offices, several leaders, including Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, have hinted that Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani would be the joint candidate for the office of Senate chairman.

PTI in a fix over selection of candidates for top offices of upper house

An opposition leader commented that after the victory of Mr Gilani against the government-backed candidate, incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani must be having sleepless nights.

Besides the two top Senate offices, the opposition parties are also yet to decide the next opposition leader in the Senate as present opposition leader Raja Zafarul Haq, who is among 52 retiring senators, has not contested the election this time. Moreover, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is no more the largest opposition party in the house and, therefore, technically speaking, it cannot have a claim on the position of the opposition leader.

However, sources said, if the PDM decided to nominate Mr Gilani as the candidate for the Senate chairman’s office, then the PML-N or Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl — the other two major components of the PDM — could demand nomination of their candidates for the offices of deputy chairman and opposition leader.

It will be a real test for the PDM leadership now to finalise its candidates for these coveted positions and for getting these offices, they would definitely have to retain their unity.

On the other hand, political experts believe that the outcome of the elections for the offices of Senate chairman and deputy chairman also depends on the selection of candidates by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The PTI is in a fix over the issue as sources in the party say that many party members do not want to see Mr Sanjrani again as Senate chairman and they want the party leadership to nominate a genuine party activist or member for the coveted slot. The political experts believe that if the PTI insists on Mr Sanjrani’s nomination, it can face a similar situation which it faced in the election on the Senate seat from Islamabad after nominating Abdul Hafeez Shaikh against Mr Gilani.

On the other hand, they believe, if the PTI does not back Mr Sanjrani then this act may annoy the Balochistan Awami Party, which is now the fourth largest party in the Senate and second largest party after the PTI in the ruling alliance.

As expected, the PTI has become the single largest party in the Senate after Wednesday’s election, 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.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2021

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