Senate Elections: Will PTI’s Hafeez Shaikh bag over 180 votes?

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, PTI candidate on a hotly contested Senate seat from Islamabad, will bag over 180 votes out of a total of 341.

Speaking to the media after casting his ballot, he said the opposition’s joint candidate would secure 155 votes. Fawad said that the PPP tried to buy votes but doesn’t regret resorting to such tactics.

He expressed the hope that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will take action over a leaked video involving the opposition’s candidate from Islamabad, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son purportedly buying votes.

A video clip surfaced the other day showing the PPP leader purportedly asking the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNAs to “sell their vote”. Ali Haider Gillani was also telling the PTI lawmakers how to waste their Senate votes.

While addressing a press conference along with PPP MNA Shazia Marri, the PPP leader Haider Gillani accepted that he had met with PTI lawmakers last week to discuss things related to Senate polls.

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“I met with PTI MNAs and told them how to waste their votes. The MNAs from PTI are also my friends and I did nothing wrong,” he told the media, adding that he will meet them again on their wish.

PTI to emerge as the winning party?

A total of 52 senators in the house of 104 are set to retire on March 11 on completion of their six-year term. They will also include four of the eight senators from the erstwhile Federally Adminis­tered Tribal Areas (Fata). As the seats representing Fata will not be filled due to the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018, the Senate strength will shrink to 100.

Therefore, polling will be held to elect 48 senators — 12 each from KP and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad. Polling will be held to elect seven members on general seats, two women and two technocrats in the four provinces. Besides, the election on one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.

Over 65 per cent of the senators who are set to retire on March 11 after completing their six-year constitutio­nal term belong to the opposition parties.

While the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf senators may double in numbers after the electoral exercise to reach 28 from existing 14, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is likely to be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as 17 of its 29 senators will retire next month and the party would be able to retain just five, taking the total strength to 17.

The Pakistan Peoples Party’s strength in the house will slightly come down from 21 to 19. Among the allies of the ruling party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement will be the only loser, with its party’s strength slipping down from five to three, while another ally, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), will emerge stronger, with the number of its senators growing from 10 to 13.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, opines that “if the Senate election takes place in March 2021 as scheduled, the PTI is likely to emerge as the largest party in the house, displacing the PML-N from that position”.

It is, however, important to note that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has announced to resign from the assemblies. PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is one of the parties rallying against the government. Syed Murad Shah, Chief Minister Sindh, may advise the dissolution of the assembly shortly ahead of the Senate election in March 2021 which may keep an entire province out of the election.

Mehboob writes that “in case this happens, it will be the first time that a province skips the Senate election cycle”. “Since there is no clear and explicit provision in the Constitution and the Elections Act regarding such a situation, the matter may end up in a court of law for resolution and interpretation of the Constitution,” he continued.

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“This may become necessary also because fresh election of the chair and deputy chair of the Senate has to take place immediately after the March 2021 election and the absence of half the representation of a province may significantly impact the outcome of these elections,” he concluded.