Federal and provincial lawmakers voted to elect over four dozen members of the upper house of parliament on Thursday in a vote marred by controversies that resulted in a split mandate for the ruling PML-N and the opposition PPP. The incoming senators are to replace 52 lawmakers who are retiring on March 11 after completing their six-year constitutional term.
The controversy erupted when MPs from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) agitated the last-minute changes in the voting procedure for them through a presidential decree. President Mamnoon Hussain issued the order late Wednesday night, restricting the Fata MPs to cast one vote each instead of four granted to them by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2002.
Agitation by the Fata MPs and subsequent legal challenge to the presidential decree forced a baffled election supervisory body to postpone voting on four seats for Fata.
The Asif Ali Zardari-led PPP, which holds the office of the opposition leader in the National Assembly despite its drubbing in the 2013 general elections, is struggling to retain its status of the single largest party in the Senate after Thursday’s elections. The party has its eyes set on the coveted slots of Senate chairman and his deputy.
However, neither the PPP nor the PML-N alone can vie for the prized positions without the support of smaller parties. The senators will first take oath and then elect chairman and deputy chairman of the house on March 12 on first day of the new session. The PPP wants the session delayed till four new Fata senators are elected.
The PPP had 40 members in the upper house of the parliament. Of them 21 will retire this month. In Thursday’s elections, the party won seven seats from Sindh and 1 from K-P, taking its total strength in the 104-member house to 27. The former ruling party couldn’t win any seat from other provinces.
The incumbent ruling party, the PML-N, retained eight members in the Senate. It swept Thursday’s election in Punjab, clinching all 11 seats besides grabbing two seats from Islamabad Capital Territory, three from Balochistan and two from K-P, taking its tally to 26.
The MQM, which had a seats-adjustment understanding with the PPP in Sindh, has added four members to its exiting strength – now the party will have eight lawmakers in the upper house of the parliament.
Imran Khan’s PTI made it maiden entry in the Senate by securing a total of six seats, while the Jamaat-i-Islami, which had lost representation in the upper house of the parliament in 2012 due to its boycott of the 2008 general elections, made a comeback by winning one seat. Its Ameer Sirajul Huq won from K-P.
Asfandyar Wali’s ANP had 12 senators in the house – six of them will retire later this month. The nationalist party managed to clinch one seat from K-P in Thursday’s election. Similarly, the PML-Q of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat will have four senators after its chief Senator Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain retires. They party couldn’t win any seat in Thursday’s polls.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F which had six senators, retained half of them and added two more – one each from Balochistan and K-P– in Thursday’s polling. Among other smaller parties BNP-Awami, NP, PkMAP will have three senators each. Pir Pagara’s PML-F will be retaining its only senator. Of the 11 independent senators five will retain their seats for another three years while one more independent has been elected from Balochistan.
According to unofficial results, the PML-N swept polls from Punjab by winning all 11 contested seats. The PTI stayed away from the elections while none of PPP’s three candidates could win his seat. On seven general seats PML-N’s Pervaiz Raeheed, Hehal Hashmi, Dr Ghos Muhammad, Abdul Qayum, Saleem Zia, Chaudhry Tanveer clinched victory. On two women’s seats Begum Najma Hameed and Ayesha Raza Farooq and on two technocrat seats Raja Zafarul Haq and Professor Sajid Mir emerged victorious. The ruling party also secured both ICT seats.
Of the 12 contested seats from Balochistan, the PML-N bagged three. Its candidate Naimat Ullah Zehri secured victory on general seats, Aga Shahbaz Khan Durrani and Kalsoom Parveen won on technocrat and women seats respectively. Other winners included Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Mir Kabir and Dr Ashok Kumar of National Party.
Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s PkMAP also secured three seats as its candidates Muhammad Usman, Gul Bushara and Sardar Azam Khan were unofficially declared winner. BNP-M’s Muhammad Usman, JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hadiri and independent candidate Muhammad Yousaf Badini were also declared winner.
In all, the PTI-led ruling coalition won seven out of the 12 seats up for grab, while the PML-N won a technocrat and a general seat, the JUI-F and PPP one general seat each and the ANP got a women seat. JI Ameer also won his seat.
The PPP secured seven seats, while the MQM clinched four. PPP’s Sassui Palijo and MQM’s Nighat Mirza were elected unopposed on two women’s seats, while PPP’s Farooq Hamid Naek and MQM’s Muhammad Ali Khan Saif won two technocrat seats before voting day.
PPP’s Islam Uddin Sheikh, Rehman Malik, Abdul Latif Ansari and Saleem Manviwala and MQM’s Khushbakhat Shujaat and Mian Muhammad Attique were declared winner on seven general seats contested on Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2015.