Ziauddin
Ziauddin

• If all goes to plan, PPP, PML-N and partners can get 64 senators in 96-member house
• PTI would still remain single largest party; polling in KP Assembly may be delayed if MPAs’ oaths issue is not resolved today

TOMORROW’S Senate elections are likely to see parties in the ruling coalition — the PML-N and PPP — move closer to a two-thirds majority in the upper house of parliament.

The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will likely maintain its position as the single largest party in the new house, which will emerge after polling on its 30 vacant seats tomorrow (Tuesday), but it will be in no position to hamper the government’s legislative business.

The Senate, which is also known as the House of Federation, will comprise 96 members — 23 each from the four federating units and four from Islamabad. The 23 seats allocated to a province comprise 14 general seats, four reserved for women, four for technocrats and one for minority member.

The term of a senator is six years but 50 per cent of the total number retires after every three years and elections are held for new senators.

Elections to fill the seats allocated to each province are held in accordance with the “system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote”. Therefore, the Senate elections always depend on the party positions in the four provincial assemblies and the National Assembly.

Based on careful calculations, it appears that the ruling coalition needs 64 senators in the 96-member Senate to cement its position.

Initially, polling was to be held to elect 48 senators — 11 each from KP and Balochistan, 12 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad.

But following the unopposed election of 18 senators from Punjab and Balochistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will be holding elections on 30 vacant seats, for which 59 candidates are in the run.

Numbers game

Statistics reveal that the PTI currently has 20 members in the Senate, including those elected unopposed recently, and is in a comfortable position to clinch at least seven more seats from its stronghold of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, thus becoming the single largest party in the Senate with 27 senators.

If all MNAs and MPAs vote strictly in accordance with their party policy, the PPP is expected to face no problem in winning 10 to 11 seats from Sindh and one each from KP and Islamabad.

At present, the PPP has 13 senators and after winning 12 to 13 seats in the elections, the PPP can become the second largest party in the Senate with 25 to 26 members in the new Senate.

The PML-N also has 13 senators presently, and is expected to win another seven seats — five from Punjab and one each from KP and Islamabad — in the upcoming elections, which would make it the third largest party in the House.

It is interesting to note that the Jamaat-i-Islami, Pashtunkhwa Mili Awami Party and the PML- Functional are going to lose their representation in the Senate as all of their members retired in March.

In view of the prevailing numbers in the assemblies, these parties have not even fielded candidates.

Here are the possible scenarios that could play out in the various legislatures, where polling will be held tomorrow (Tuesday) betw­een 9am and 4pm.

Punjab Assembly

Following a reported behind-the-scenes understanding among the country’s three major parties — the PML-N, PPP and PTI — all seven candidates vying for the upper house of parliament on general seats from the province have already been elected unopposed.

Four of those elected unopposed belong to the ruling PML-N, while two hail from PTI-Sunni Ittehad Council alliance.

Three candidates will now contest for two technocrat seats after the withdrawal of papers by Mustafa Ramday.

The contest will feature Finance Minister Moham­mad Aura­ngzeb and Mus­adik Malik of PML-N and PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid.

PPP’s Faiza Ahmed, Anusha Rahman, PML-N’s Bushra Anjum and PTI’s Sanam Javed are in the race for the two women’s seats, while Khalil Tahir of PML-N and Asif Ashiq of PTI are vying for the minority seat.

If the ruling coalition remains united in Punjab and is able to get its members to vote under a joint strategy, then PML-N candidates would be in a position to win all five seats from the province.

Here, although PPP’s Faiza Ahmed is contesting for a women’s seat, she is unlikely to secure it without an understanding with the PML-N.

The PML-N also enjoys the support of Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP), the PML-Q, the PML-Z and some other smaller groups.

On the other hand, the PPP only has 14 MPAs in the 371-member Punjab Assembly, where 16 seats are lying vacant for various reasons. But given that the number of PTI-backed independents in the Punjab Assembly is 91 and, therefore, the PTI-SIC alliance has a very remote possibility of winning any seat.

Sindh Assembly

Presently, 11 candidates are vying for seven general seats from Sindh. In addition, there are three candidates in the run for two seats reserved for women, four on two seats reserved for technocrats/ulema and two hopefuls for the only seat reserved for minorities.

The situation in Sindh will be interesting where Faisal Vawda — said to be enjoying the support of the powers that be — has also filed nomination papers as an independent candidate.

In view of its clear dominance in the provincial legislature, if the PPP decides to vote for Mr Vawda, it can get at least five out of seven general seats, while the MQM-P will get one seat as well.

The PPP, however, is set to win all the other five seats from the province — two each for women and technocrats and one for minorities — if everything goes smoothly.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The most interesting contest is expected in the PTI-ruled KP, where the MPAs will be voting to elect 11 senators, including seven on the general seats.

The ECP has already declared that it would be compelled to postpone elections to the extent of KP if the speaker fails to administer the oath to members of the assembly elected against reserved seats.

If this happens, the KP Assembly may not witness any voting on Tuesday, which would mean that at least seven would-be senators from PTI would have to wait longer to become members of parliament.

According to the final list of the candidates, there are 16 candidates vying for seven general seats from the province.

Other candidates on the general seats from KP are Attaul Haq of the JUI-F and Niaz Ahmed of the PML-N, besides 13 independents, mostly those nominated by the PTI.

Prominent among them are Azam Swati, Faisal Javed Khan, Murad Saeed, former Senate deputy chairman Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Noorul Haq Qadri, Khurram Zeeshan, Azhar Mashwani and Dilawar Khan.

The ruling PTI has 91 MPAs in the 145-member provincial assembly and, therefore, it is all set to win at least seven seats — five general and one each reserved for women and technocrats — from the province.

Islamabad

Farzand Hussain Shah of the PTI and Rana Mehmoodul Hassan of the PPP are the candidates for the general seat from the capita whereas Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar of the PML-N and Raja Ansar Mehmood of the PTI are vying for the technocrat seat.

Polling for the federal capital’s seats will be held in the National Assembly.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2024

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