ISLAMABAD: Election for the two top slots in the Senate wasn’t anything less than a fierce battle between the government and opposition, where the results left the ruling party shocked as chants of ‘Jiye Bhutto’ echoed the loudest.
The house was jam-packed — the media gallery, guests and VVIP gallery alike brimmed with politicians, journalists and party zealots in one of the rare occasions when the house witnesses such scenes.
Those outside were glued to TV screens giving live updates about each vote being cast with analysis on who will chair the house for next three years.
Before the start of session, lawmakers from both sides exchanged pleasantries, laughs or were found huddling around a senator, all while planning for the oncoming power game.
With baited breath the proceedings started where Senator Sardar Yaqoob Nasar, serving as presiding officer, announced the vote casting process to all members. The members were then called alphabetically to cast their vote.
Meanwhile, seated in the last rows were Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) representatives, including Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry, Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rahman and Minister for Railways Saad Rafique. The group of senators was seen engaged in conversation as each vote was being casted, while Senator Pervaiz Rasheed and Aurangzeb seemed busy whispering and talking to those sitting near them.
Known for its more serious decorum, the house burst into laughter as Senator Rehman Malik headed towards the exit door instead of the polling booth. Rehman’s antic prompted Rasheed to naughtily demand for his vote to be rejected, as the former had left the house premises. Senator Sherry Rehman responded to the PML-N senator’s query by asking him to assuage his anger to which Rasheed retreated to his seat.
Initially, when names of senators belonging to the Jamait Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl were called for voting, only two were there to respond as majority of the party’s representatives remained absent. The absence of a once long-time ally of the ruling party created a stir for a while and government lawmakers, including the back benchers, sprung into action to check what went wrong. After around 10 minutes, Maulana Ataur Rehman and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri entered the house and were ushered in the hall by PML-N Senator Asif Kirmani.
As the counting of votes for the chairperson started, the humming in unison to count the votes paralleled and continued till the end. As the count of one side reached 57, some ardent PPP supporters started chanting slogans of ‘Jiye Bhutto’ and ‘Kul bhe Bhutto Zinda tha aj bhe Bhutto zinda hay’. The guards on different aisles of the galleries attempted to manage these enthusiasts but were left in vain.
The ultimate result came as an utter shock for the PML-N as Aurangzeb, Rafique and Chaudhry were seen either bent on their phones or gawking in the air.
Interestingly, somewhere in the VIP lounge, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) MNA Hamidul Haq scuffled with someone initially being called the son of Prime Minister Shahiq Khaqan Abbasi.
“I started chanting slogans for PTI, the boy tried to shove and choke me,” said Haq on how the brawl started. He claimed that he had bit the boy on hand and that he must have a scar of that and thus can be traced. Haq also showed the scars left on his neck following the altercation.
However, the information minister later issued a statement that the PM’s son was not involved in the scuffle with Haq but the prime minister apologised for the incident as his family was present in the house for the proceedings.
Eventually, the lawmakers and guests started leaving the premises as the contest for the top slot was over and election for deputy chairperson started. Like earlier, as the newly-elected chairperson Sadiq Sanjrani was about to announce the result, the house once again boomed with the “Jiye Bhutto Jiye Bhutto” chants, marking PPPs’ strategic triumph.