‘Independents’ take lion’s share

Published February 10, 2024
PESHAWAR: PTI supporters hold a protest outside the office of a Returning Officer against alleged rigging in election results, on Friday.—AFP
PESHAWAR: PTI supporters hold a protest outside the office of a Returning Officer against alleged rigging in election results, on Friday.—AFP

• Hectic political activity expected over next few days, as both PML-N and PPP are likely to reach out to them and offer a share in government
• Independents will have three days after official notification to join a party
• They can also form a group or bloc, and retain their independence
• If they choose to sit on opposition benches, they will be in commanding position to take coveted office of opposition leader
• Independents won’t receive reserved seats for women and minorities, meaning their number will stay static as others’ ranks swell

ISLAMABAD: With PTI-backed independent candidates coming up from behind and stealing the show, contenders for the prime minister’s office will be looking to secure their support for the formation of a majority government in what will be yet another hung parliament.

It remains to be seen how many independents who won their seats in the PTI’s name will remain loyal to its jailed chief, as they will not be legally bound to follow party discipline. It bears noting that the successful candidates also include some who had only been awarded a ticket following the rejection of their party’s more preferred nominees.

In a ‘victory’ speech, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — whose hopes for taking the office for a fourth time have hit a snag after the PTI’s surprise — has already indicated that he is ready to join hands with the independents “to steer the country out of crisis”.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, also a declared contender for the slot, has expressed the hope that many independents will join his party. Mr Bhutto-Zardari had previously also ruled out the formation of a coalition government with the PML-N.

Hectic political activity is expected over the next few days, with chances that the independents will be approac­hed by the two parties and offered a share in government. Experts believe that besides ministerial portfolios, they may be offered chairmanships of various standing committees and appointments as parliamentary secretaries — both offices which come with several perks and privileges attached.

Besides a test of the independents’ loyalties, this will also be a test of Barrister Gohar Ali’s leadership, and many will be keeping a close eye to see if he is capable of commanding his brigade.

Under Rule 92(6) of the election rules, independent candidates will have three days following the notification of their victory to join a party. Another option that will be available to them is they may be able to form a group with any name they like.

If they stay united and choose to sit in the opposition, they will be in a comfortable position to clinch the office of opposition leader in the National Assembly.

Rule 92 (6) also reads, “For the purpose of this rule, the expression ‘total number of general seats won by political party’ shall include the independent returned candidate or candidates who may duly join such political party within three days of the publication in the official Gazette of the names of the returned candidates.”

A proviso to the rule reads, “Provided that if the independent candidate applies to the leader of a political party for joining his party, then the leader of that political party will forthwith inform the [Election] Commission of joining of such candidate through a letter to be delivered to the Commission along with the consent of that candidate duly attested by a Notary appointed under the Notaries Ordinance, 1961 (XIX of 1961) or an Oath Commissioner appointed under the Oaths Act, 1873 (X of 1873) or a Government servant in basic pay scale 17 and above: Provided that the consent of the independent candidate so delivered to the Commission shall, in no circumstances, be open to recall or cancellation.”

 Ziauddin
Ziauddin

The PTI’s ‘independent brigade’ is at a disadvantage after being denied the chance to contest polls on the party’s iconic symbol, the bat. Because its candidates are all technically ‘independent’, the party does not qualify for a share in reserved seats.

Following a reduction in the total strength of the National Assembly from 342 seats to 336 under the 25th Amendment, parties require the support of at least 169 lawmakers to form the government.

The results of 245 out of the total 265 National Assembly constituencies where elections were held had been announced by late Friday, which showed the independents in the lead with 99 seats overall. The PML-N and PPP had won 69 and 52 seats, respectively, and were set to bag most of the 70 reserved seats for women and non-Muslims in the house.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement had bagged 15 seats, while the PML-Q had three. The Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) and JUI-F had secured two seats each. PkMAP and MWM had clinched one seat each.

Some of the key leaders to have won seats in the National Assembly include former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, former president Asif Ali Zardari, and his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, and former chief minister of Punjab, Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, also won a seat in the lower house.

Results

According to results announced by the Election Commission, Nawaz, a top contender for the office of prime minister, won a National Assembly seat from NA-130 (Lahore) by defeating PTI-backed candidate and former provincial health minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid. However, he lost to PTI-backed Shahzada Gustasab Khan from NA-15 (Mansehra), with Shahzada Gustasab securing 105,349 votes against Nawaz Sharif’s 80,382 from the constituency.

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz won her first-ever National Assembly seat from NA-119 (Lahore) with 83,855 votes, defeating PTI-backed Shehzad Farooq, who came in second with 68,376 votes.

Meanwhile, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif secured the NA-123 seat from Lahore with 63,953 votes, with PTI-backed Afzal Azeem Pahat as the runner-up with 48,486 votes. Shehbaz also won the PP-158 seat in Lahore with 38,642 votes, with PTI-backed Yousuf Ali the runner-up with 23,847 votes.

PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz added to the Sharif family’s wins in Lahore by edging out PTI-backed Aliya Hamza Malik with 105,960 votes to her 100,803.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari won an expected landslide in Shaheed Benazirabad with 146,989 votes, while Sardar Sher Muhammad Rind Baloch, a PTI-backed independent candidate, was runner-up with 51,916 votes.

His son and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari clinched two major wins: in NA-196, with a landslide of 85,370 votes, against the JUI-F’s Nasir Mehmood, who came in second with 34,449; and in NA-194, with 135,112 votes over the JUI-F’s Rashid Mehmood Soomro, who got 35,311.

In Lahore’s NA-127, Bilawal could not even finish as a runner-up. The winner was Attaullah Tarar of the PML-N, who secured 98,210 votes against his runner-up, Malik Zaheer Abbas, an independent, who clinched 82,230.

In Multan, former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was declared a winner from NA-148 with 67,326 votes, while PTI-backed Taimoor Altaf Malik secured 67,033 votes.

In another hot contest in the city of saints, PPP-P’s Syed Ali Musa Gilani defeated PTI-backed Meher Bano Qureshi, daughter of incarcerated PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Gilani was declared the winner with 79,080 votes, against Mehar Bano’s 71,649.

PTI-backed Zain Qureshi, son of incarcerated Shah Mahmood Qureshi, took an easy win in Multan with 126,770 votes. The PML-N’s Javed Akhtar got 76,758 votes for the same seat.

Gohar Ali Khan, who is leading the PTI and is its current face while its founder is behind bars, cruised to victory in his hometown, Buner, with 110,023 votes. ANP’s Abdul Rauf came second with 30,302 votes.

Asad Qaiser, former National Assembly speaker and another prominent face from the PTI, won with 115,635 votes, while JUI-F’s Fazal Ali came in second with 45,567 votes.

Omar Ayub Khan clinched his NA seat with 192,984 votes, while PML-N’s Babar Nawaz Khan came in second with 112,389 votes.

PTI-backed Zartaj Gul Wazir, who was the former minister of climate change, won a landslide victory with 94,881 votes against independent candidate Mehmood Qadir Khan with 32,929 votes.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq took a major loss in NA-6, Lower Dir I, with 56,538 votes against PTI-backed Muhammad Bashir Khan, who clinched the seat with 81,060 votes.

Just weeks after joining the JUI-F, former PTI leader Noor Alam Khan was declared the winner of NA-28 Peshawar-I with 138,389 votes. PTI-backed Sajid Nawaz Khan came in second on the seat with 65,119 votes. Meanwhile, PTI leader Ali Amin Gandapur thrashed JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman with 93,443 votes against 59,922 in Dera Ismail Khan.

MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui was declared on a Karachi seat with 103,082 votes over PTI-backed Arsalan Khalid, who got 86,342 votes.

MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar added to his party’s tally in Karachi with 20,048 votes over PTI-backed Aftab Jahangir, who got 14,073 votes.

The PPP-P’s Mahesh Kumar Malani took an easy win in Tharparkar II — from where he became the first non-Muslim to win a general seat in the NA. He won with 132,061 votes over Arbab Ghulam Rahim of the Grand Democratic Alliance, who got 113,346 votes.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2024

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