Political manoeuvrings for the coveted post of the chairman of the Senate of Pakistan have already begun with several names taking rounds in the upper echelons of the government, ahead of the election which is expected to bring the treasury and the opposition to almost parity in the upper house.
Highly-placed sources have revealed that there is a series of internal consultations going on among the opposition parties, while the ruling coalition was also engaged in efforts to bring its chairman. However, the current Chairman Sadiq Sanjarani is once again a hot favourite.
From the treasury benches, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, who has established himself as an expert on complex legal issues, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Organiser Saifullah Niazi, seen as an influential member of the party’s core committee, are in the fray.
Half of the Senate members are retiring in March. Currently, the opposition has a majority in the house but after the election, it is expected that the strength of government and opposition members in the 100-strong house come to almost equal.
The sources said that after the election, the ruling coalition, comprising PTI, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), may rise to 49.
On the other hand, they added, the strength of the opposition, comprising the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the PML-Nawaz, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Jamaat-e-Islami is likely to come down to 51.
While many members of the Senate will complete their terms and might go for re-election, many new faces will be standing for a seat in the upper house of parliament. The sources expected most of the newcomers from the PTI and the BAP.
So, there is a strong possibility that the next chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate will come from these two parties, the sources said. They added that if the chairman does not come from the BAP, then the party would get the vice chairmanship, with Kauda Babar as its strong candidate.
However, the sources do not rule out a bigger demand from the PML-Q and also a surprise from the PPP. They indicate that once again, the election of chairman and deputy chairman will be thorny issue in the coming months, stressing that the support of the PTI and BAP will be key to win these posts.
If the BAP succeeds in retaining the post of chairman, there is a strong possibility that the PTI will take its deputy chairman from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because it is likely to elect 10 senators from K-P. Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi from former tribal areas could the favourite in this scenario, the sources added.
According to the projected Senate numbers, the opposition will also try to bring its own chairman. But given the failure of a no-confidence motion against Sanjrani, the chances for the opposition parties appear weak.