A day late and a dollar short

Several ruling party lawmakers say they would not cast vote in favour of incumbent finance minister


Rizwan Shehzad February 23, 2021
Imran Khan virtually addresses inaugural session of Governing Council of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held in Rome. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

To say that there are no problems for the ruling party from its lawmakers for the upcoming Senate elections is to be divorced from reason and reality.

In fact, PTI is busy convincing its own members to give unconditional support to the candidates nominated for Senate elections, some of its members secretly while others have openly refused to vote for the candidates.

Federal Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, whose rival candidate in the Senate elections is former premier Yousuf Raza Gillani, is in hot waters as several PTI lawmakers publicly expressed on Monday evening after the National Assembly’s session that they would not cast vote in favour of the incumbent finance minister.

Not everyone was ready to express it on camera but MNA Amir Liaquat Hussain did not mince words while expressing that he would not vote for Shaikh.

“[I am] not giving vote to anyone in Senate elections. [I] will not give vote to Hafeez Shaikh at any cost.”

Besides Shaikh, PTI lawmakers have strongly expressed reservations over giving ticket to Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda.

The threat of not giving vote to anyone is more serious than not casting it in favour of Shaikh or Vawda.

The results of the recent by-polls is just one indication where that might take the end results, especially after Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz recently admitted that there were internal rifts in the ruling PTI due to which it suffered a setback in Friday’s by-elections.

On the one hand, the ruling party is in a state of shock and searching for answers for an unexpected defeat in the by-polls while, on the other, its own lawmakers are giving it a tough time and the leadership is busy coalescing the members expressing disdain over the selection of the candidates in the face of the Attorney General for Pakistan’s statement that people in Islamabad are still roaming around with bags filled with money to buy votes for their favourites.

Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly asking K-P lawmakers on Monday to leave the party if they were not ready to give votes to the selected candidates explains that things are apparently not in full control of the party just days before the Senate elections.

In 2014, one of the six demands of Khan was electoral reforms. Back then PML-N had agreed to five of them, including electoral reforms, but Khan remained adamant over former premier Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and the demand could not be materialised.

After staying in power for roughly two-and-a-half year, there was not much fervor about electoral reforms until the opposition parties geared up to give tough time to the ruling party in and outside the parliament.

Sensing that all the activity was centered around Senate polls, PTI swung into action and started mentioning use of money in Senate polls in speeches, press conferences, discussions, official press releases and tweets.

It showed eagerness to pass the 26th amendment bill and went on to seek Supreme Court’s opinion if the government can introduce the method of open ballot without amending the constitution – making it feel like PTI was a day late and a dollar short.

One of the reasons why PM Imran is so keen to hold Senate elections through open vote is the realisation that the party is so divided that lawmakers might go against its decision.

The premier, once again, tweeted on Monday in favour of open ballot for Senate polls and Federal Minister for Science Fawad Chaudhry introduced electronic voting machines to get rid of rigging in elections.

However, PPP’s Senator Raza Rabbani while arguing before the top court added another dimension to the whole thing when he said that if secret ballot is kept traceable in Senate elections then “deep state” might have access to it and the same will be used as a tool to blackmail the lawmakers – fearing an inglorious end to upper house’s elections.

Internal rifts have cost PTI dearly in by-polls and situation can aggravate in the Senate elections if lawmakers really go against the party choice just like Amir Liaquat Hussain announced in the parliament premises following the NA session.

The house will resume proceedings on Tuesday at 4pm.


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