Ruling alliance scores big in Senate by-polls

Published March 15, 2024
QUETTA: Chief Minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti casts his vote during the Senate by-election at the Balochistan Assembly, on Thursday.—APP
QUETTA: Chief Minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti casts his vote during the Senate by-election at the Balochistan Assembly, on Thursday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: In a by-election held on six vacant seats of the upper house of parliament, the PPP emerged victorious on four seats whereas the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) managed to bag one seat each from Balochistan.

These six seats — one from Islamabad, two from Sindh, and three from Balochistan — became vacant in light of Article 223 of the Constitution after the senators either resigned from the house or got elected to the national and provincial assemblies following the Feb 8 elections.

The election for the Islamabad seat in which PPP leader Yousaf Raza Gilani emerged victorious was held at the National Assembly whereas the voting for the Sindh and Balochistan seats was held at the respective provincial assemblies.

Though three out of the six vacant seats originally belonged to the PPP, it succeeded in increasing its tally by winning an additional seat from Balochistan. The significant development was the return of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to the Senate, who secured 204 votes against his rival Ilyas Mehrban’s 88. Out of the 301 votes polled at the NA, nine were rejected.

ECP announces schedule for elections on upper house’s 48 seats

Mr Gilani became a senator from Islamabad in 2018 but ceased to be a senator after his victory notification as the MNA from NA-148 (Multan).

It may be noted the ex-PM is the likely Senate chairman under a power-sharing deal between the PPP and the PML-N. Sources in the PPP confirmed that Mr Gilani will be the candidate for the office of the Senate chairman.

“If you connect the dots everything will become clear. Why an elected MNA would contest Senate elections, a PPP leader hinted.

He said under an agreement reached with the PML-N, the Senate chairman will be from the PPP and the deputy chairman from the PML-N.

During the voting in the hall, sloganeering was also witnessed as PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif entered to cast their votes. PML-N members chanted slogans of ‘tiger, tiger’ and the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) members responded with ‘thief, thief’. The two sides also exchanged slogans of ‘watch thief’ and ‘pineapple thief’.

One seat each in Balochistan

In Balochistan, ex-CM Abdul Quddus Bizenjo from the PPP, PML-N’s Mir Dostain Khan Domki, and JUI-F leader Abdul Shakoor Ghibzai were elected to the three seats left vacant following the departure of ex-caretaker premier Anwaarul Haq Kakar, ex-caretaker interior minister Sarfraz Bugti and JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri from the house.

Mr Bizenjo got 23 votes, Mr Domki 17, and Abdul Shakoor 16 votes: all of them were elected in the first count after the polling. Mobeen Khilji of the Balochistan Awami Party could get only five votes.

For the Senate by-poll, Provincial Election Commissioner Mohammad Farid Afridi was appointed as the returning officer and 61 parliamentarians exercised their right to vote.

PPP bags Sindh seats

In Sindh, PPP’s Jam Saifullah Dharejo and Aslam Abro returned elected on two seats of the Senate in the by-election held at the Sindh Assembly.

Nisar Khuhro and Jam Mehtab, who were elected to the provincial assembly seats in the general elections, had vacated these seats. Provincial Election Commissioner Saifullah, who was the returning officer for the by-election, announced the results. According to the result, Mr Dharejo secured 58 and Aslam Abro obtained 57 votes while Sunni Ittehad Council candidates Nazirullah and Shazia Sohail secured four votes each. The polling concluded at 4pm and 124 MPA out of 168 used their right to vote. One vote was rejected.

The MQM-P and the lone member of the Jamaat-i-Islam in the house did not participate in the election.

Senate polls

The ECP also issued the schedule for the polls on 48 seats which are slated for April 2.

According to the schedule, nomination papers can be submitted on March 15 and 16, while scrutiny of nomination papers will be carried out till March 19. Similarly, appeals against the acceptance or rejection of nomination papers, if any, will be disposed of by March 25 while the final list of candidates will be published on March 27.

Ex-Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, whose term was set to expire on March 11, ceased to be a senator following the issuance of his victory notification as a member of the Balochistan Assembly on February 15. However, those 52 members whose six-year term ended on March 11 include Deputy Chairman Muhammad Mirza Afridi, Leader of the House Ishaq Dar, Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Tahir Bizenjo, Rubina Khalid and Rukhsana Zuberi. It is expected that most of these faces would make it back to the upper house.

Till then, the Senate will remain dysfunctional in the absence of both its chairman and deputy chairman, who will be elected after the election of senators on these 48 seats.

The term of a senator is six years, but half of them retire every three years and elections are held on vacant seats; these elections are usually held a few days before the end of the term of the senators, but this time it could not happen. In contrast to the term of senators, the chairman and deputy chairman are elected for a three-year term.

Meanwhile, the ECP spokesman rejected reports about the CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja being made an ambassador to a foreign country. He termed them baseless. Earlier, PTI MNA Omar Ayub had claimed on the floor of the NA that the CEC would be posted as the high commissioner in Canada after the expiry of his term.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta and Tahir Siddiqui in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2024

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