PML-N eyes 25 Senate seats

Party hopes to make inroads in other provinces to score upsets


Sardar Sikander February 08, 2018
Party hopes to make inroads in other provinces to score upsets. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hopes to secure around 25 seats in the upcoming Senate election scheduled for March 3, which will take the party’s overall strength in the upper house of parliament to 42.

At present, the PML-N strength in the 104-strong Senate is 26 – down from 27 after the disqualification of Nehal Hashmi. The number equals the strength of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian’s (PPPP) seats in the upper house.

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But what comes in favour of the PML-N is the fact that 18 of the 26 PPPP senators are retiring against PML-N’s nine on March 11. It means the PML-N will have 17 seats in the Senate to build on its strength.

After the issuance of an ordinance to extend the Election Act to the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas )(Fata) on Tuesday, the elections will now take place on 52 seats of the upper house -- 46 seats from the four provinces, four from Fata and two from Islamabad.

Of them, 33 are general seats -- seven from each province, four Fata and one Islamabad; nine technocrat seats -- two from each province and one from Islamabad;  eight seats reserved for women -- two from each province; and two seats for non-Muslims-- one each from Punjab and Sindh.

Background discussions with knowledgeable party sources suggest that the PML-N is optimistic about securing all the 12 seats from Punjab. In the 372-member Punjab Assembly, the PML-N leads the charts with a wide majority of 310, compared with 30 seats of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and eight of the PPPP.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where the PML-N faces its arch political foe, the PTI, according to sources, party chief Nawaz Sharif and his aides are making intense efforts to secure up to four seats with the help of some ‘like-minded’ candidates -- dissident leaders of the PTI and other political parties,.

The PML-N has 16 seats in the 123-member K-P Assembly compared to 61 of the PTI. Reportedly, Sharif has tasked the party’s provincial President Amir Muqam to strike deals with the provincial legislators.

Muqam, however, denied trying to buy loyalties of lawmakers from rival parties.

“It’s the popularity of the PML-N and the performance of our government at the Centre which will compel lawmakers from all political parties to support us. We need not to buy votes like PPPP and PTI are trying to,” he told The Express Tribune.

In the 168-member Sindh Assembly, the PML-N has only seven seats, compared to 94 of the ruling PPPP and 50 seats of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Here the PML-N hardly expects a seat. It is learnt, however, that the party was trying to win a single seat with the help of the Sherazi group.

In Balochistan, the PML-N is the largest in the 65-strong house with 21 seats but it received a setback. The PML-N lawmakers joined other legislators to vote in favour of Abdul Quddus Bezinjo from the PML-Quaid-e-Azam for the chief ministership, after forcing their own party’s Sanaullah Zehri to resign in the wake of a no-confidence motion.

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According to party insiders, the provincial assembly has become a contesting ground for the PPPP and the PML-N as to who gets the lion’s share.

Out of the 11 Senate seats from Balochistan, the PML-N is eyeing three to four wins after accommodating candidates backed by party’s aggrieved yet powerful provincial chief, Zehri.

In Fata, the elections are scheduled on four general seats. The candidates who win the Senate seats from Fata usually maintain their independent status and do not join any political party. At present, all the eight Fata senators have no political affiliation -- yet majority side with the PML-N.

The PML-N is trying to get at least two of its candidates win, it is learnt. The Fata senators are elected by 12 members of the National Assembly from Fata. However, currently, their number is 11 because one seat has fallen vacant. Out of these 11 members of the National Assembly, six are independent; three belong to the PML-N and one each to the PTI and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl.

The two seats of Islamabad in the Senate -- a general and a technocrat seat -- are likely to go to the PML-N. These senators are elected by the whole National Assembly, where the PML-N has the majority.

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