Clearing the first hurdle

Published: August 16, 2018

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has cleared the first hurdle, clinching the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. Predictable though it was, the victory must have given some psychological relief to the party ahead of the Prime Minister’s election tomorrow, given that the election came through a secret ballot which may have sprung a surprise or two. With 330 votes cast for the election of Speaker, the party, however, managed only 11 votes more than the simple majority — and that too with the help of its seven allies. Asad Qaiser, the Speaker now, got 176 votes and his opponent, Syed Khursheed Shah, a joint candidate of 11 opposition parties, bagged 146. Eleven of the votes were rejected, keeping all guessing on whether to look for some kind of dissent or treat them as normal cases of rejection. With Qasim Khan Soori, the Deputy Speaker, bagging seven votes more than Qaiser — 183 votes out of a total of 328 cast — the guessing game becomes even more complex. Soori’s opponent, As’ad Mahmood, managed just two short of Shah’s tally in the Speaker’s election, with only one vote going to the bin.

To judge the strength of the numbers the PTI gathered, let’s have a look at the Speaker’s election on two previous occasions. After the 2013 general election, PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq had secured 258 out of a total of 313 votes polled to become Speaker, with the backing of the PPP. Sadiq’s opponents Sheharyar Afridi of the PTI and Iqbal Qadri of the MQM were polled 31 and 23 votes, respectively. Just one vote was declared invalid. The statistics were almost the same in case of the Deputy Speaker’s election. Murtaza Javed Abbasi had bagged 258 out of the 312 votes polled while his opponents PTI’s Munazza Hassan and MQM’s Kishwar Zehra secured 31 and 23 votes, respectively. And there were no rejected votes. And in 2008, Fehmida Mirza of the PPP, with the backing of the PML-N and others, had got the nod of 249 Lower House members out of a total of 324 who cast their votes in Speaker’s election.

The PTI’s present numbers may not point to a comfortable majority, but the fact that the Speaker and his deputy are from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan respectively — both smaller provinces — is indeed a noticeable pleasant change.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2018.

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