Senate elections: Prime Minister Nawaz faces hard choices

PML-N is hoping to emerge as the single largest party

Irfan Ghauri February 10, 2015
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: TMN

ISLAMABAD: Barely 48 hours before candidates were to submit their nominations for the upcoming Senate polls, the federal capital appeared to be swept by a fierce lobbying frenzy. For most aspirants, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) offered the hottest party ticket as landing one would guarantee a spot in the corridors of power.

As the president of the ruling PML-N, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has the unenvious task of finalising candidates for his party. The task is particularly challenging especially in Punjab and Islamabad where the PML-N is confident of bagging all contested seats.

The ruling party’s main ambition is to emerge as the single largest party in the Senate so that it can claim the key slots of chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate with the help of its allies.

On Monday, the prime minister held a meeting with applicants from his party for the March 3 Senate polls.

Half of the 104-member Senate will retire after completing their six-year term and will be replaced by new members. But the race is fraught with competition, mainly from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party which is hoping to crash the PML-N dream

“The PM said that all applicants are men and women of exceptional qualities,” said an official statement issued after the meeting.

It is likely that the PM will be making appointments of heads of different departments in the next few weeks amongst party leaders who could not be accommodated in the Senate.

One of the premier’s toughest calls will be choosing from among 17 candidates vying for a party ticket in Islamabad. Among the applicants on the only general seat from Islamabad are names like the PM’s advisers Irfan Siddiqi, Sartaj Aziz, outgoing Senator Zafar Ali Shah, Ashtar Ausaf, former party MNA from the capital Anjum Aqeel Khan and others.

Interestingly, PML-N senior leader Iqbal Zafar Jhagra has applied from both K-P and Islamabad. Another seat being actively contested in Islamabad is reserved for a woman. Members of the National Assembly elect two Senate members from Islamabad. Since PTI is not taking part in the Senate contest from Islamabad, PML-N is confident of securing both seats.

There is also tough competition in Punjab for aspirants of PML-N tickets. PML-N’s leading names from Sindh have also applied for tickets from Punjab. The ruling party is confident of winning all 11 seats from Punjab. From K-P, it has received a total of 10 applications for party tickets.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2015.



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