Coalition sweeps polls on 19 Senate seats

This combo photo shows Finance Minister Ishaq Dar (left) Finance Minister Muhammad Auranzgeb (middle) and Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik. — DawnNewsTV/File
This combo photo shows Finance Minister Ishaq Dar (left) Finance Minister Muhammad Auranzgeb (middle) and Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik. — DawnNewsTV/File
Counting of votes underway in National Assembly. — DawnNewsTV
Counting of votes underway in National Assembly. — DawnNewsTV
Votes are cast in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday. — ECP via Mian Shoaib
Votes are cast in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday. — ECP via Mian Shoaib

The ruling coalition on Tuesday swept the elections held on 19 Senate seats while polls were postponed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the dispute pertaining to swearing-in opposition members elected to reserved seats.

Out of the 19 seats up for grabs today, the PML-N won six seats, the PPP won 11 while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) bagged one seat, unofficial results showed.

The PML-N’s numbers in the 96-member House have now risen to 19 while the PPP’s have risen to 24. It should be noted that the PTI has 20 members in the Senate.

In a post on X, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated the successful senators and said the polls were a continuation of the democratic process.

“It is hoped that senators will play their role for the upliftment of the Constitution and the development of the country

“Newly elected senators should participate in effective legislation for public welfare and national development and prosperity,” he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz said, “All PML-N senators elected. Congratulations to all.”

She expressed hope that the senators would work diligently for the development of the country and the promotion of democracy.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman also congratulated her party’s winning candidates, saying that there was a lot of work to do ahead.

Elections were not held in Balochistan as lawmakers had been elected unopposed on 11 vacant seats last month.

Islamabad

Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar won on a technocrat seat from Islamabad, garnering 222 votes with Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) Raja Ansar Mehmood coming in second with 81.

Meanwhile, PPP’s Rana Mehmoodul Hassan secured 224 votes to win the general seat in Islamabad while PTI’s Farzand Hussain Shah garnered 79 votes.

Punjab

In Punjab, all seven candidates vying for the general seats in Punjab were elected unopposed at the end of March. Today, polls were held on two women and technocrats seats each and one minority seat.

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb and Petroleum Minister Musadiq Malik were successful on the two technocrat seats, garnering 128 and 121 votes, respectively.

In Punjab, PML-N’s Anusha Rehman and Bushra Anjum were successful on two seats reserved for women, garnering 125 and 123 votes, respectively. PML-N’s Khalil Tahir Sindhu was successful on a minority seat.

Speaking to reporters earlier upon his arrival at the Punjab Assembly, Aurangzeb — who was nominated by the PML-N for the technocrat seat — had expressed his “full optimism” for being successful in the election.

Assembly Speaker Malik Ahmed Khan had also expressed the hope that the PML-N would win all the vacant seats from Punjab. He further said that coalition partner PPP was supporting his party in the elections.

Sindh

In Sindh, the ruling PPP secured 10 of the 12 seats up for grabs. The remaining two were won by the MQM-P and an independent candidate.

On general seats, PPP’s Ashraf Ali Jatoi (22 votes), Dost Ali Jessar (21 votes), Kazim Ali Shah (21 votes), Masroor Ahsan (21 votes), Nadeem Bhutto (21 votes) were successful.

MQM-P’s Amir Chishti (21 votes) and independent Faisal Vawda (21 votes) also won from a general seat. A day earlier, the PPP had decided to withdraw one of its candidates to support Vawda.

On the technocrat seats, PPP’s Zamir Ghumro (58 votes) and Sarmad Ali (57 votes) were successful. PPP’s Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani (57 votes) and Quratulain Marri (58 votes) won on two seats reserved for women.

PPP’s Poonjo Bheel (117 votes) was also successful on a minority seat.

Prior to the polls, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shahhad expressed the hope for all PPP candidates to be elected to the Senate. Speaking to the media outside the Sindh Assembly, he said that Sarfaraz Rajar withdrew his nomination papers on the party’s directives as the party was Vawda.

In an indirect reference to the PTI, CM Shah said that those who made tall claims about giving surprises in the Senate election finally retreated from the arena and boycotted the election from Sindh.

Polling

Polling in the NA and the provincial assemblies in Sindh and Punjab started at 9am and concluded at 4pm.

Ballot papers in four different colours were printed — white papers will be used for general seats, green for technocrat seats, pink for women, and yellow for minority seats.

The Senate had became dysfunctional on March 11 following the retirement of 52 lawmakers.

Polls postponed in KP

Polling did not begin in KP at 9am as scheduled and around two hours later, was postponed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) “on account of delay of oaths of reserved seats”.

KP election commissioner Shamshad Khan reached the assembly and sought a list of the sworn-in MPAs from the assembly staff. At the same time, the opposition petitioned the ECP to postpone the Senate elections there.

Subsequently, the ECP issued a notification of the poll postponement, which referred to its March order wherein it had rejected a petition filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council — the new face of the PTI — seeking the allocation of reserved seats.

Recalling that the Peshawar High Court (PHC) had upheld its decision, the ECP noted that “no arrangement for oath was made”. It added that the RO for the Senate polls informed the electoral watchdog today that assembly speaker Babar Saleem Swati had still “not arranged oath”.

“The commission is of the considered view that the standards of honesty, justness and fairness of election as provided in Article 218(3) of the Constitution cannot be fulfilled due to non-administration of oath to elected members and which amounts to disenfranchisement of lawful voters and denial of level playing field to the voters,” the ECP said.

Stating that the electoral college was “incomplete”, the ECP postponed the elections till the administration of oaths to the MPAs-elect on reserved seats under Article 218(3) of the Constitution read with sections 4(1), 8(c) and 128 of the Elections Act, 2017.

Last week, the ECP had hinted at postponing the Senate elections for KP if Swati kept on delaying their oath-taking. The speaker had filed a review petition yesterday against the PHC order wherein it had directed him to administer oaths to 25 opposition MPAs elected to reserved seats.

Meanwhile, KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur vowed that he would not let “illegal people” take oath — referring to the MPAs-elect belonging to the opposition parties — and vowed to “go to the very end” for that.

 CM Gandapur speaks in Peshawar. — DawnNewsTV
CM Gandapur speaks in Peshawar. — DawnNewsTV

Speaking to media in Peshawar, he insisted the opposition was “violating the Constitution continuously”. Lamenting that reserved seats were “snatched” from the SIC, the PTI stalwart vowed that his party would “take back our right”.

Gandapur further said that the PTI would summon its parliamentary meeting and pass a resolution on the matter.

On the other hand, KP Opposition Leader Dr Ibadullah Khan assailed the Swati and CM Gandapur for becoming “tigers” of former premier Imran Khan instead of fulfilling their duties.

 Dr Ibadullah speaks in Peshawar. — DawnNewsTV
Dr Ibadullah speaks in Peshawar. — DawnNewsTV

The PML-N leader termed it “unfortunate” that Senate elections could not be held in KP and said the provincial government did not follow court orders, the ECP, the Constitution or the law but only the “directives” given by Imran.

Speaker Swati said that the opposition parties had not presented the “correct facts” before the PHC, adding that they had said an assembly session had been summoned when it had not been.

He reiterated that he could not administer the oaths as ordered by the PHC as a session of the House had not been summoned. Swati said his review petition sought “further directives and clarification” on the matter and that he would follow what the PHC orders.

Later in the day, opposition members filed a petition in the PHC seeking contempt of court proceedings against speaker Swati and KP Deputy Speaker Suraiya Bibi for not implementing its order of administering oaths to MPAs-elect on reserved seats.

The petitioners included PPP’s Shazia Tehmas Khan, Faiza Malik and PML-N’s Shazia Jadoon and Amina Sardar. Filed through Advocate Amir Javed and Saqib Raza, the plea named Swati and Suraiya as respondents in the case.

It urged the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the two, hand them punishment under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 or any other law in the field and convict them under the same.

Dar appointed as presiding officer for 1st Senate session

In a related development, it emerged that President Asif Ali Zardari, on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice, has appointed Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar as the presiding officer for the first session of the upper house of Parliament.

According to a summary sent by the PM Office to President Zardari dated March 29, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the tenures of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman expired on March 11.

The summary quoted the rules of procedure for the Senate: “The first meeting of the Senate for election of the chairman shall be presided over by the outgoing chairman or, in his absence, by a person nominated by the president, for the purpose, hereinafter in this rule and in rule 10 referred to as the presiding officer; provided that no person shall preside over the meeting for the election in which he himself is a candidate.”

The PMO summary then nominated Dar to “preside over the first meeting of the new parliamentary year of the Senate for [the] election of chairman and deputy chairman”.

Subsequently, in a notification dated March 30, President Zardari approved PM Shehbaz’s advice.

Elected unopposed

Those who have made their way to the upper house of parliament unopposed include PML-N’s Syedal Nasir and Shahzeb Durrani, PPP’s Sardar Umar Gorgej, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Ah­­med Khan and Awami National Party’s (ANP) Aimal Khan on general seats in Balochistan.

Likewise, National Par­ty’s Jan Muhammad, former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar who contested as an independent, PPP’s Hasana Bano and PML-N’s Rahat Jamali were also elected unopposed.

PPP’s Bilal Ahmed Khan and JUI-F’s Maulana Wasay have won two seats reserved for ulema/technocrats in Balochistan.

Similarly, seven members from Punjab were am­­ong those who won unopposed in the Senate elections. Elections were to be held on a total of 12 seats in Punjab, out of which seven are general seats and candidates have won all these seven seats unopposed.

They include Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi (independent) who has served as caretaker Punjab chief minister, and PML-N’s Pervaiz Rashid, Ahad Cheema, Talal Chaudhry, and Nasir Mehmood. Other successful candidates are Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen’s (MWM) Raja Nasir Abbas and PTI’s Hamid Khan.

Senate composition

The Senate consists of 96 lawmakers. However, only 48 seats were up for grabs this year — 12 each from Punjab and Sindh, 11 each from KP and Balochistan and two from Islamabad — as half of the senators are elected at one time, and the other half three years later.

Each senator serves a term of six years, barring resignation, disqualification or other extraordinary circumstances.

The Senate comprises 23 members 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 members.

The ECP said that in all, 147 candidates had filed nomination papers for 48 Senate seats, of whom 18 had been elected unopposed. They include seven each against general seats from Punjab and Balochistan and two each against reserved seats for women and technocrats from Balochistan.

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