Fearing that the main opposition group might attempt to sabotage the upcoming Senate elections, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has decided to finalise a list of possible candidates for the upper house, sources said.
It was during a party meeting last week with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and young co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari when party leaders were told to seek applications from aspirants.
“The process has begun and is likely to be completed ahead of December 27. We may announce our candidates at the fourth anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto,” a top party leader told The Express Tribune.
Sources said that the PPP had constituted a board under the chairmanship of the party’s Secretary General Jahangir Badar to scrutinise candidates. They have also asked him to finalise the process by the end of this month. President Asif Ali Zardari is likely to approve the list of PPP’s senate hopefuls after his return from Dubai.
PML-N threats, or threatened?
Elections for half (54) of the Senate seats, including four new seats allocated for minorities, are scheduled for March next year but there are fears that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) may ‘sabotage’ the polls to deny PPP a possible majority. Some PML-N members have already threatened to resign en masse from both national and provincial assemblies ahead of elections.
The provincial assemblies constitute the electoral college for the upper house of parliament – and the polls under the current scenario are likely to give the PPP a majority in Senate for the first time in the history of Pakistan. There are indications that the PPP may have more than 40 members in the upper house, giving them an unprecedented edge in Senate.
The PML-N, on the other hand, is unhappy at the prospect of the ruling party scoring a landslide in the key elections – the main reason being such a result will increase the chances of President Zardari’s re-election.
Lashing out at the opposition on Sunday, the prime minister told media in Lahore on Sunday that by going to the Supreme Court over the Memogate scandal, the PML-N was actually attempting to ‘run away from the Senate elections’.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had earlier said his party’s “Go Zardari go” campaign had nothing to do with the upcoming Senate elections. Second-tier leaders, however, have been threatening resignations to block the key polls.
As far as the seats themselves are concerned, there are likely to be some major changes, while others are likely to win Senate seats again. The terms of former law minister Dr Babar Awan, Finance Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Mian Raza Rabbani are set to expire but are among the strongest candidates to win seats again on the PPP ticket.
On the other hand, the party’s disgruntled leader Dr Safdar Abbasi, a confidante of the party’s former chairperson Benazir Bhutto, will have to leave the house for good.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar, when asked if he was interested in contesting the senate elections, merely said “it depends on award of the party ticket”.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2011.