• Gilani looks set to become Senate chairman; PML-N staying mum on its candidate for deputy chairman
• 43 senators-elect to take oath; PTI boycotts ‘unconstitutional’ election

ISLAMABAD: Amid a boycott by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the upper house of parliament is expected to elect its chairman and deputy chairman on Tuesday almost one month after it became dysfunctional following the retirement of half of its members on March 11.

As many as 43 senators will take oath as members of the house before a schedule is announced for elections to the offices of chairman and deputy chairman the same day.

According to a statement issued by the Senate Secretariat, the upper house will meet at 9am today (Tuesday) and after the oath-taking, the announ­cement regarding the schedule for the election of the chairman and the deputy chairman will be made at 12:30pm.

In the absence of any opposition, the ruling alliance is poised to clinch the slot, with the chairmanship likely going to PPP’s Yousaf Raza Gilani and the deputy chairmanship to a PML-N candidate. The PML-N has yet to announce its nominee, however.

According to the PPP leaders, their campaign to secure victory for Mr Gilani as the chairman of the Senate was in full swing and a special committee had reached out to other political parties to ensure the PPP lawmaker’s win.

According to PPP leader Sherry Rehman, Mr Gilani enjoys significant support within the Senate, and the PPP will formally declare its support for him on April 9, along with its allied parties.

On the other hand, the PTI has decided to continue with its boycott in light of the postponement of Senate elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The polls on 11 seats could not be held after the KP speaker did not administer oath to lawmakers elected on reserved seats. These seats were doled out to the PPP, PML-N, and other parties after the ECP rejected a plea by the PTI and SIC for the allocation of these seats.

A PTI spokesperson said that the election for the posts of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate without representations from all federating units was “unconstitutional and unacceptable”.

He vowed that the PTI would not tolerate “the insult of the upper house to select unelected persons on the constitutional positions of the state from the incomplete electoral college”.

He lamented that the process of violation of the Constitution and democratic principles by the unconstitutional government of ‘Form-47’ continued sans any interval. The spokesperson said that after the postponement of the Senate election in KP, the election of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate was a continuation of the “conspiracy to ambush the public mandate”.

He went on to say that keeping an “important federating unit out of the electoral process was part of the nefarious and shameful attempts of a biased group to sow the seed of provincial discard and hatred”.

Senate conundrum

The term of a senator is six years, but half of the lawmakers retire every three years and elections are held to fill the vacancies. These elections normally take place days before the expiry of the senators’ term, but that could not happen this time. The unique situation came about in the absence of an electoral college caused by the failure of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold timely general elections.

Since elections are not to be held on four seats that used to be reserved for the erstwhile tribal areas, as these have been abolished following their merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under the 25th Amendment, polling to fill 48 vacancies was to be held on April 2.

Out of them, 18 senators had been elected unopposed and elections on 11 Senate seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been postponed owing to a controversy surrounding the oaths to the members of the provincial assembly elected on reserved seats.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2024

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