On the face of it, the PML-N has the numbers to elect its own Senate chairperson and deputy chairperson. Again on the face of it, the PPP — even if the PTI were to join hands with it — would not be able to muster enough votes to stop the PML-N from achieving its objective.
At best the PPP-PTI-led coalition will have no more than 45 votes (20 of the PPP+13 of the PTI+6 Independents from Balochistan+ 2 of the Jamaat-e-Islami+ 4 of the MQM-P).
However, most likely two votes would not be available for the PML-N on election day. One is that of Ishaq Dar’s who is still ‘recuperating’ in London and the other of Saadia Abbasi who, despite giving up her American nationality, may not be allowed by the Election Commission to vote on the plea that the US has not yet issued the required document relieving her of her US citizenship.
Also, the remaining eight Independent (Fata) senators, after the one won over by the PTI, are said to be too vulnerable to money or/and persuasions of the ‘powers-that-be’. If all eight go over to the other side then the number of votes of those opposed to the PML-N are likely to increase to as many as 53.
But one cannot rule out the possibility that the PML-N’s money could also work on these eight and perhaps the party could grab at least four of these eight.
If that happens then the focus of the ‘you-know-who’ would be on at least four of the remaining 12 of the ‘Independent’ senators returned by the PML-N-dominated Punjab Assembly. A number of pundits believe that they can spot these four, but are not willing to disclose their names. In that case the Zardari-led coalition would have the winning number of 53.
These pundits insist that those who had wanted to stop the PML-N from capturing the Senate would not have gone to all that trouble of first instigating a rebellion among the PML-N MPAs in the Balochistan Assembly and then getting the provincial government transferred overnight from a PML-N-led coalition to one led by the independents.
So, given these possibilities it is not all that easy to dismiss Asif Ali Zardari’s claim which he has been repeatedly reiterating since even before the Senate election that he would recapture the upper house come what may.
He is so confident of achieving his objective that he has publicly spurned Nawaz Sharif’s equally public offer that the PML-N would vote for outgoing chairman Rabbani if the PPP were to put him up as its candidate.
And in what appears to be a political sleight of hand on the part of Imran — he has in a roundabout way joined hands with the PPP not to get the PTI’s own candidate elected to the either of the two august offices of the Senate but simply to stop the PML-N from winning either one.
To save face what he has done is, he has instead of joining hands with the PPP upfront, has handed over his 13 votes to the Balochistan chief minister, the frontman of the six independent senators elected by the Balochistan Assembly, asking him to use them for stopping the PML-N from taking over the Senate. And the Balochistan chief minister has handed over all the votes in his hand (his six plus 13 of the PTI’s= 19) to Zardari for achieving what is being desired by Imran.
The PML-N with two unavailable and four doubtful votes is likely, if the strategy of ‘you-know-who’ unfolds as planned, to have no more than 49 votes ( its own 27+ 5 of the PkMAP+5 of the NP+4 of the JUI+4 of Fata+one each of the ANP, the PML-F,BNP-M and MQM).
No party has named its final candidates for the two offices for election. However, the Balochistan six want in return from Zardari its candidate Anwarul Haq Kakar to be considered for either of the two offices, preferably the chairman’s slot!
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2018.