Top leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have carefully crafted their party’s strategy to contest the upcoming Senate election and possibly secure a total of 21 seats from across the country.
According to sources, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not only appointed a focal person in each province to carry out negotiations and secure victory for his party’s candidates but also asked senior federal ministers to coordinate with them and stop any possible horse-trading within the PML-N.
In Punjab, the PML-N aims at winning all the 11 Senate seats for which it has announced its candidates. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is the focal person while former law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan is responsible to ensure that the MPAs do not deflect.
The PML-N enjoys winnable support of 312 MPAs out of total 371 members in Punjab Assembly. However, the party might face a setback as three out of the eleven candidates belong to Karachi (Sindh) while South Punjab has been ignored while awarding tickets.
Sources said out of the PML-N’s 312 members, 120 belong to South Punjab and majority of them might vote in favour of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) candidate Nadeem Afzal Chan, the party’s sole candidate in Punjab.
The PML-N fears that if this happens the PPP will use it for rest of the tenure to prove that the PML-N had fissures in its ranks.
To counter this possibility, the PML-N has devised a three-pronged strategy in Punjab to win from among all its announced 11 candidates. As the first move, it approached the PPP to convince it to withdraw its candidate – a request politely turned down by the PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari.
Rana Sanaullah is also trying to convince the party MPAs that the three candidates from Karachi – Saleem Zia, Nihal Hashmi and Mushahidullah Khan – will benefit the party and strengthen it in Karachi in future politics.
The PML-N has included the name of Saleem Zia at the eleventh hour as its earlier announced candidate Dr Asif Kirmani might be disqualified as he is currently serving as political secretary to the PM and drawing salaries.
Fearing that eligibility of its three candidates from Karachi might be challenged qualification in court, the PML-N has also fielded covering candidates from Punjab to achieve its target of 11 seats.
Although the PML-N has eight MPAs in the Sindh Assembly, it believes that it will succeed in getting one of its candidates, Syed Zafar Ali Shah, elected with the support of allied parties. In this regard, PM Nawaz will himself talk with Pakistan Muslim League-Functional chief Pir of Pagara and other leaders.
The party is anxious about the success of its six candidates from the province as there are reports that a majority of the PML-N’s 22 MPAs have assured the PML-N’s provincial allies –Pashtoonkhwa Mili Awami Party (PkMAP), National Party (NP) and others – that they will secretly cast their vote in favour of their candidates instead of the PML-N one.
The PML-N’s senior leadership has approached PkMAP leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai, and NP leaders Hasil Bazinjo and Abdul Malik Baloch to convince them to field joint candidates but these allies are still reluctant as they believe that if they contest elections separately they might get their candidates elected in Senate.
On Saturday, PM Nawaz announced that his party has struck a deal with the NP and the PkMAP that after two-and-a-half-years, the government in Balochistan would be transferred over to the PML-N for the remaining tenure.
The PML-N with the support of its 17 MPAs in the K-P Assembly has fielded only one candidate, Lt-Gen (retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi. K-P Governor Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi is the focal leader to fulfill the party task for Senate election.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2015.
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