The main opposition party has termed Thursday’s Senate elections ‘most controversial’ while the government blamed the opposition for making the electoral exercise ‘disputed’. Syed Khursheed Shah, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said the Senate elections were a fixed match, and the PML-N and PTI shared the blame for making the polls controversial.
Speaking to journalists outside the Parliament House, Shah questioned Wednesday night’s presidential order that withdraw the right to cast four votes from 11 lawmakers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). “The government’s midnight coup made the whole elections controversial.”
He said the PML-N government tried to secure one more seat from Fata by issuing the presidential order hours before the polling which created insecurity among the Fata lawmakers. If the PML-N was not eyeing a seat from Fata, it would have refrained from taking such action, he added. Shah said the government should have issued such a president order before the issuance of the elections schedule. “The midnight coup reflects government’s dishonesty,” he added.
About Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Shah said the PTI was to blame for making the elections controversial in the province where it is in power. The party leadership’s instructions to its MPAs to show their stamped votes before casting them were a blatant violation of election rules.
In Punjab, he said, PPP candidate Nadeem Afzal Chan has complained that PML-N legislators were involved in rigging. “Only in Sindh, the elections were free and fair,” he said.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also described the Senate elections as ‘most controversial’ and blamed the PTI for that. Maulana Fazl’s brother Lutfur Rehman said the election in K-P was the best example of blatant rigging.
Responding to the opposition parties’ criticism, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said the PPP was responsible for making the elections controversial. “The PML-N had proposed 22nd constitutional amendment in order to put an end to political horse-trading and to ensure transparency in the Senate elections, but both the PPP and JUI-F refused to endorse the move,” he said
Defending the presidential order, Rafique said it was the right decision to stop horse-trading and to discourage those who wanted to buy their way into the upper house of parliament. Out of the 11 MNAs from Fata, six had formed a clique and cut a deal with four Fata candidates. “The rest of the Fata MNAs had become irrelevant,” he said, adding that the presidential order smashed that clique.
A senior government leader alleged that the PPP government in Sindh made the Senate elections in the province controversial. The PML-N and PML-F, which have respectively eight and 10 MPAs in the provincial assembly, could not bag even a single seat as PML-F MPA Jam Madad Ali was disqualified by an election tribunal only a day before the polling. The tribunal declared Madad Ali’s rival Asghar Ali Juenjo of the PPP winner, depriving the opposition of the numerical strength to elect one senator.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2015.