ISLAMABAD, Jan 12: The Election Commission announeed on Thursday that Senate elections would be held on March 2.

The ruling Pakistan People's Party is set to win majority seats in the upper house for the first time in the country's parliamentary history.

The elections for half of the seats, in addition to the four reserved for minorities under the 18th Amendment, will take the number of senators from 100 to 104, with the PPP having the prospect of securing over 40 seats.

According to the ECP schedule, the candidates can file nomination papers with returning officers on Feb 13 and 14. Scrutiny of nomination papers will be carried out on Feb 16 and 17.

Appeals against rejection or acceptance of nomination papers can be filed with the ECP secretary on Feb 20 and 21. The appeals will be decided on Feb 22 and 23. Feb 24 has been set as the last date for withdrawal of candidature and the final list of contesting candidates will be published the same day.

The members of each provincial assembly will elect seven senators for general seats and two each for women's seats and seats reserved for technocrats, including ulema, and one member from seats reserved for non-Muslims.

Members of the National Assembly will elect one member against general seat and the other against the seatreserved for technocrats from the federal capital. Members of the National Assembly from Fata will elect four members against general seats.

The polling will take place from 9am to 4pm simultaneously in the Parliament House building, Islamabad, and the four provincial assemblies.

Fifty of the 54 senators will be elected to replace those who will retire on March 11 on the expiry of their term.

Prominent among those who will retire are: Deputy Chairman of Senate Jan Muhammad Jamali, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, former law minister Dr Babar Awan, PML (Likeminded) president Salim Saifullah Khan, PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, former minister of state for information Tariq Azeem Khan, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security Mian Raza Rabbani, former chairman of Senate Wasim Sajjad, former law minister S.M. Zafar, Safdar Abbasi, Prof Khurshid Ahmad, Shahid Bugti and Ahmad Ali.

If all members vote strictly for candidates of their parties and no seat adjustments are made, the PPP will become the single largest party in the upper house. It is expected to improve its strength from 27 to 42 senators. Only five of its 27 senators will retire in March, whereas the party is set to win 20 of the 54 seats for which elections will be held, thanks to its majority in Sindh Assembly and a comfortable position in thePunjab and Balochistan assemblies.

The PML-N has seven senators and only Ishaq Dar will be retiring in March.

However, due to its majority in the Punjab Assembly, it is expected to win another seven seats to improve its strength to 13. The PML-Q will be the biggest loser as 20 of its 21 senators will be retiring in March. The party's president, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, will be its sole senator not to retire. But the party is expected to get a maximum of seven seats. This will reduce PML-Q's strength to just eight from 21.

The Awami National Party has six senators and only one of its members is due to retire in March. However, the party is expected to secure five seats, raising its representation to 10.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement is likely to retain its current position. It has six senators, three of whom will retire in March. But the party is in a position to win back three.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F is set to lose its position. Seven of its 10 senators are retiring in March and given the party position in the provincial assemblies, it is expected to get not more than four seats.

Thus its representation will be down altogether to seven.

The parties which are expected to lose representation altogether in the Senate are Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party, Jamboori Watan Party and PPP-Sherpao.


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