ISLAMABAD: As far as the numbers game for election of the new Senate chairman is concerned, PML-N insiders believe as many as seven legislators belonging to the ruling party’s allies jumped ship on the voting day.
The opposition-backed candidate, new Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, managed to bag seven votes over and above what was openly promised to him by the joint opposition parties by Monday afternoon.
Who deceived whom could remain a mystery since it was a secret vote.
This final tally, which astonished many, forced government ministers and the leadership of allied parties to accuse a powerful “unseen force” of manipulating the free and fair election process and dub it a conspiracy against democracy.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party (NP) claimed that he talked to a number of senators and some of them admitted that they shifted their loyalties after being forced to do so by those with “real power”.
Until Monday afternoon, the PML-N had the clear-cut support of some 53 senators – including allied parties such as PkMAP and NP (five senators each), JUI-F (four senators), JI (two senators), BNP-M (one senator), two independent senators from Fata, and 33 senators of the PML-N itself, including the ‘unavailable’ Ishaq Dar.
Similarly, until Monday afternoon, only 49 senators had openly pledged their support for the opposition-backed candidate – 20 from the PPP, 13 from the PTI, six independents from Fata, five from the MQM-P, and five independents from Balochistan.
The MQM-P and independent senators from FATA only announced their support for Sanjrani a few hours before polling started.
However, when the counting of votes ended, PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq had obtained only 46 votes as against Sanjrani’s 57.
Among others, many doubted the faithfulness of the JUI-F. And the party did itself no favours on this front. JUI-F senators appeared to be indecisive, if not outright confused, even after polling started.
The presiding officer, who conducted polling for the Senate chairman’s election, was calling names of senators in alphabetical order to invite them to cast vote. JUI-F senators Abdul Ghafoor Haidery, Maulvi Fiaz Muhammad, Talha Mehmood and Attaur Rehman were the only senators who were absent when their names were called by the presiding officer.
Initially, they were skipped, and soon after, Senator Talha Mehmood arrived inside the Senate hall to whisper something in the ear of a senior PML-N senator, before leaving the hall again. Ostensibly, the JUI-F was still busy in getting “assurances”. A few minutes later, all the JUI-F senators moved in and polled their votes in the end.
Though the conduct of the JUI-F senators raised many eyebrows, former JUI-F senator Ismael Buledi told The Express Tribune that the party only cast votes in favour of the PML-N candidate.
Later, on a private TV channel, the JUI-F chief assured that his party stood by the PML-N and the results were a shock for him.
“We wanted to stand by our ally and confront the immense pressure exerted on us,” he said, adding that he thought whatever happened in the Senate was a defeat for democracy.
Meanwhile, after asking not to be named, a senior PTI legislator claimed that the PML-N should investigate its own ranks as, according to his knowledge, even some PML-N senators did not vote for the party’s candidates.
Later, PML-N Senator Kalsoom Perveen fortified the claim as she openly admitted that although she voted for the party’s candidate for chairman, she voted for the opposition candidate for deputy chairman.
Talking to The Express Tribune, State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said, “What happened today was the final episode of a drama that started with the toppling of the PML-N government in Balochistan a couple of months ago.”