PML-N to face challenge if opposition parties join hands

Zafarul Haq, Pervaiz Rashid, Mushahid Hussain among N-Leaguers in run for coveted post

Sardar Sikander March 06, 2018
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO:FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) can face a tough challenge in getting its candidate elevated as the Senate chairman in case the opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, field a joint candidate against the N-League.

The PML-N has rejected the possibility of supporting Raza Rabbani’s candidature for the slot of the Senate chairman for the second term and has decided to field its own candidate for the coveted post, well-placed sources said. The N-League is also ‘bargaining’ with its allies for the position of the deputy chairman, according to reliable N-Leaguers.

PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq is rated as a strong contender for the Senate chairman’s slot followed by Pervaiz Rashid and Mushahid Hussain Syed from the PML-N side. Negotiations are on with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) for the Senate’s deputy chairmanship, it is learnt.

PML-N’s ‘Quaid’ Nawaz Sharif held informal rounds of consultations with senior party stalwarts on Monday over the election of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman at the residence of Chaudhry Munir Hidayatullah, his close relative, in the federal capital, sources said.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Zafarul Haq, and other senior leaders attended the meeting. Abbasi later left for his two-day official visit to Nepal and Sharif left for Raiwind, Lahore. Acting PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif did not attend the meeting as he is on bed rest in Lahore after falling ill.

The next 90 days

In the new Senate, the PML-N can get more than 33 seats if all of its 11 independent candidates and those from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) officially join the ruling party. For the election of the Senate chairman, the PML-N needs 53 votes to attain majority in the 104-member Senate. The N-League will have the support of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s five senators, the National Party’s two senators, one senator of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and four independents from Fata who would make the ruling coalition’s strength touch 45 votes in the 104-member Senate. If parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan having five seats), the Awami National Party with  one seat and some candidates out of 13 independents (other than of the 11 independents backed by the PML-N) support the N-League, the ruling party can comfortably attain the desired majority of 53 votes to get its chairman elected.

In comparison, if the PPP-P and the PTI join hands and other opposition forces as well as all the 13 independent candidates (other than the Nawaz League-backed 11 independents) join them, the opposition coalition can attain the desired majority of 53 votes to get its chairman elected. In this scenario, the PPP-P (20 seats), the PTI (12 seats), the MQM-P (five seats), the Jamaat-e-Islami (two seats) and the Awami National Party (one seat) as well as 13 independents need to join hands to block the N-League from having its chairman elected – a scenario that seems challenging.

Sources said the PML-N is considering supporting the candidature of Abdul Ghafoor Haideri or any other candidate from the JUI-F as the Senate deputy chairman and consultative huddles between Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Sharif have taken place in this regard. The option to accommodate the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party as the deputy chairman is also under consideration.

Lately, reports surfaced that the N-League could accommodate the Senate chairman from Balochistan in a bid to woo the six ‘likeminded’ independent senators from the province. Party circles believe that the election of chairman and deputy chairman from the same province is unlikely given that Haideri, who is also the outgoing Senate deputy chairman, is elected from Balochistan.

Recently, reports did rounds that the PML-N would agree to Raza Rabbani’e re-election as the Senate chairman. However, PML-N sources deny this possibility saying the party leadership would push to get its chairman elected in the present circumstances when the party was facing multiple challenges.

PML-N stands to benefit from opposition disarray

“The chairman’s election would certainly help in projecting the narrative that the PML-N is the largest parliamentary force and it cannot be ousted from politics,” said a PML-N senator, requesting anonymity.

The N-League leadership agreed to Rabbani’s elevation as the Senate chairman back in the year 2015 because the PPP was a majority party in the Senate at that time, though the PML-N had majority in the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Balochistan. Prior to Rabbani, Nayyar Bokhari and Farooq H Naek from the PPP remained the Senate chairmen.

“Now, it’s our turn. In the past, we took a decision, in principle, to support PPP senators to head the upper house given that the PPP had majority in Senate,” the source said.

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