An eventful season

Published April 13, 2024

THE Senate chairman and deputy chairman were elected unopposed, and 41 new senators were sworn in on Tuesday, bringing to a close the reconfiguration of the Pakistani political order triggered by the dissolution of the PTI government on the same date two years earlier. Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani of the PPP and the PML-N’s Syedal Khan Nasir, respectively, ‘won’ the Senate chairman and deputy chairman seats amidst a boycott by the PTI, which had called for the election to be postponed till seats allocated to KP in the Upper House had been filled. Ignoring the opposition party’s plea, government representatives pressed ahead with the ‘democratic process’ and completed what has been criticised and derided by both political opponents and many observers as a ‘silent coup’ which began with the wholesale rigging of electoral results following the general elections held on Feb 8. As things stand, the PPP-PML-N combine now controls around two-thirds of both the Upper and Lower Houses of parliament and could, therefore, start affecting changes in the Constitution if it so wishes. However, no single party enjoys even a simple majority, meaning their strength is only in their unity.

The current state of affairs appears to be precisely what political observers had long predicted: that the general election would give birth to another fractured parliament which would be amenable to being controlled from behind the scenes. Although initial results made it seem that the voters may have briefly upset that plan, the final outcome has been that which many perceive to be ‘preordained’. The ECP dutifully kept moving the goalposts, seemingly to ensure that the ‘plan’ did not go awry. Consider its latest: it postponed Senate elections for the KP Assembly on the grounds that the assembly “wasn’t complete”, even though it did not seem to matter on Tuesday that the Senate was similarly incomplete before it proceeded to elect a chairman and deputy chairman. Previously, elections for the presidency, prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly had also been held in ‘incomplete’ Houses. Still, it will be the ECP’s ‘original sin’ which will be remembered most. In retrospect, the electoral watchdog’s decision to deprive the PTI of its electoral symbol was what appeared to ensure that it would be the will of unelected forces, and not the voters’, that would ultimately prevail.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

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