The outcome of Senate elections seems to be the focus of both mainstream political parties: the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is considering to call fresh parliamentary elections immediately after elections for half of Senate seats in March next year, while the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) wants the polls to be held ahead of the crucial elections.
The possibility of holding early polls, according to top party leaders, was being discussed by party cadre said to be close to President Asif Ali Zardari.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was also in favour of dissolving parliament and announcing elections once the provincial assemblies elect 50 new senators next year, his associates said.
The parliamentary elections in Pakistan are due after the current administration completes its term in March 2013.
The current political mixture is likely to give the PPP an unprecedented edge in the Senate election, and the situation would not be acceptable for the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The PPP has 20-plus senators now, and the number is likely to reach 40 after the Senate polls.
Individuals close to both Zardari and Gilani said the proposal was being considered as “a pre-emptive measure” to blunt PML-N’s plan to start anti-government public agitation.
The party ranks, sources say, are constantly haunted by the spectre of the army taking advantage of extreme political instability if the opposition manages to create chaos on the streets was another powerful factor, and this fear is said to be another reason which may sway most of them to the idea of holding early elections.
The PML-N is going to hold a crucial meeting later this week to finalise a strategy for mobilising masses to press for its demands.
“The Senate election is going to be the real turning point in national politics. It will decide the future course…we have a plan to demand fresh elections before that,” a senior PML-N leader said.
Officials in PPP said the proposal was also discussed during the meetings of party’s core committee in recent months.
Subsequently, President Zardari ordered the party cadre to prepare for elections, and moves like forming new alliances for Karachi and Punjab, and the announcement about bifurcating Punjab along ethnic lines came after that, they added.
“This is the maximum we want to achieve. Senate elections under the current circumstances are our target,” a senior party leader said.
The party leader, who hails from Sindh and is a federal minister, said Gilani would himself announce the dissolution of assemblies.
Pakistan’s constitution has provisions for snap polls.
PPP insiders said that decision like carving a Seraiki province out of Punjab and political alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) had already dimmed the prospects of Nawaz Sharif’s party mobilising masses for its demand in a big way.
PPP spokesperson Qamar Zaman Kaira, however, said: “No such proposal is under consideration at any level. We have empowered the parliament and we want it to complete its tenure.”
“Early elections are not part of our plans. It’s not our ambition and if somebody else is thinking on these lines, I want to say it is not possible.”
About fears within the party that some other ‘institution’ might take advantage of chaos on the streets, he added: “Not at all…all these are speculations.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.
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