ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting on Thursday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting on Thursday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has decided to field Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani as its candidate for the coveted office.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced Sanjrani for Sen­ate chairmanship,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz tweeted on Thursday.

The announcement came a day after a major upset in the Senate elections, with the Pakistan Dem­o­cratic Movement (PDM)’s You­suf Raza Gilani defeating Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

Sources said the decision came at a time when the PTI was faced with a dilemma as many of the PTI lawmakers wanted the leadership to field a genuine party activist and a silent revolt was feared if it was not done. On the other hand, the party cannot afford to annoy the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) which has the highest numerical strength in the Senate among PTI allies.

Ruling party has 26 and PPP 20 members in 100-strong upper house of parliament

Though the PDM is yet to formally name its candidate for the office of Senate chairman, there are clear indications that it will nominate Mr Gilani for the office.

The term of office of the chairman and the deputy chairman of the Senate is three years and Mr Sanjrani’s term will end a day before the elections to be held on March 12.

“After the Senate has been duly constituted, it shall, at its first meeting and to the exclusion of any other business, elect from amongst its members a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman and, so often as the office of Chairman or Deputy Chairman becomes vacant, the Senate shall elect another member as Chairman or, as the case may be, Deputy Chairman,” Article 60 (1) of the Constitution reads.

Besides the two top Senate offices, the opposition parties are also yet to decide their candidate for the office of opposition leader in the Senate as incumbent 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 to the position of the opposition leader.

However, sources said, if the PDM decided to nominate Mr Gilani as the candidate for Senate chairman’s office, then the PML-N or the 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.

Mr Sanjrani was elected to the Senate as an independent candidate in the March 3, 2018 elections for the upper house and was sworn in as Senate chairman later that month after he secured 57 votes out of the total 103 cast for the seat, defeating the PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq. He is the first-ever Senate chairman from Balochistan.

In July 2019, the opposition submitted a resolution of no-confidence against Mr Sanjrani as a first step towards mounting pressure on the PTI-led coalition government.

However, Mr Sanjrani survived the no-trust vote after 14 lawmakers from the opposition ditched their party leadership by either voting against their own resolution or deliberately wasting their votes.

In a related development, outgoing Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani called on senator-elect Yousuf Raza Gilani – a potential candidate against him – and congratulated him over his victory.

As expected, a hung Senate has emerged after Wednesday’s much-hyped elections on 48 seats of the upper house. Against 53 seats of the opposition and 47 of the ruling alliance, as was erroneously published in these columns on Thursday, the opposition and the ruling alliances have 52 and 48 members, respectively, in the 100-member new Senate.

One of the members-elect, Ishaq Dar, has not taken oath even close to expiry of half of his term. He is a proclaimed offender and is living in self-exile in the UK.

After the March 3 elections, the PTI with 26 senators has now become the single largest party in the Senate whereas the PPP with 20 senators is the largest party on the opposition benches.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021

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