PESHAWAR: With just days to go until by-elections for a solitary seat in the Senate are held in the provincial assembly, the opposition parties have yet to agree on whether they will field a combined candidate or will they go with individual candidates and try their luck against the well-poised ruling party.
Should the opposition fail to evolve a consensus on jointly contesting the elections, it would hand a massive boost to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Opposition parties in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assembly have issued tickets to former provincial minister Haji Hedayatullah Khan from the Awami National Party (ANP), while the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has decided to field its provincial finance secretary Farzand Ali.
The ANP has contacted the PPP, asking it to withdraw its candidate in the upcoming by-election in favour of their nominee. However, the two parties have yet to make any headway in this regard.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — who are part of the K-P Assembly under the banner of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMAP) in a coalition with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) — along with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to back the PPP candidate.
This has split the opposition in the provincial assembly.
The PPP provincial leadership is keen on retaking a seat for their party in the senate given the circumstances under which they have lost it.
"We have had talks with the JUI-F, the PML-N and the JI, who are all backing our candidate in the upcoming Senate by-elections,” a party source told The Express Tribune, adding that they are also in contact with the ANP.
“They (ANP) can withdraw their candidate from the contest," the source added.
On the other hand, ANP's Provincial General Secretary and their Parliamentary Leader Sardar Hussain Babak told The Express Tribune that they have been trying to convince the PPP to withdraw their candidate.
“The ANP is the other major opposition party in the K-P assembly and since the JUI-F is not fielding a candidate, we have a right on the general seat,” he believed.
Babak, however, hoped that the two parties will decide on the issue soon.
A seat in the Senate was vacated after Pakistan Peoples Party’s former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) president Khanzada Khan recently decided to quit the party. He automatically relinquished his seat in the Senate.
Khanzada had been elected to the upper house of parliament on a general seat from K-P on a PPP ticket during the March 2015 Senate elections. His six-year tenure was due to last until March 2021 but his departure from the party brought his term in the upper house to a premature end.
Having been elected on a general seat, his seat is now up for grabs.
The loss of Khanzada means that PPP’s strength in the upper house of parliament has been reduced to just 19 senators. However, it is not enough to dislodge the PPP as the single largest party in the Senate having more members than the 16 senators boasted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PTI who have just 14 senators each.
With the vacant general seat set to undergo re-election on November 26, the PTI — which enjoys a majority in K-P — is salivating at the chance of boosting its strength in the upper house. The party subsequently handed a ticket to Zeeshan, Khanzada’s son.
PTI sources say that they have 94 members in the 145 member house, which translates as 65 per cent. However, this is more than the 73 votes required to ensure victory in the election.
Hence, when the elections on November 26 commence, the PTI will be in a strong position to ensure that one of their members is elected into the upper house.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2019.
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