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January 30, 2018

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Speculations die down: ECP announces Senate election on March 3

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday announced that polling for the Senate election will be held on March 3, as the term for 52 incumbent legislators will end on March 11.

The ECP said that nomination papers might be submitted on February 4-6 to the returning officers concerned, followed by scrutiny of these documents, to be completed by February 9. This schedule is seen as a clear hint of an end to apparently unending speculations about the fate of the Senate electoral exercise.

There have been strong voices on the floor of parliament and in media talks that conspiracies were being hatched not to let the Senate election take place on time. Another 52 senators will make their way to the Senate, leading to new political alignments not only in the legislatures but also outside.

The ruling PML-N enjoys the status of a majority party in the Senate presently with 27 seats, followed by the PPP with 26 seats, MQM is the third largest party with eight senators and the PTI has seven senators in the House. However, a significant reshuffle of status in terms of seats is on the cards in the upcoming Senate election.

The other day, the Election Commission issued a list of retiring senators: four senators will be elected on general seats from Fata, 11 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan each and 12 each from Sindh and Punjab, including seven on general seats, two on technocrat seats, two on women seats and one on a minorities seat. Similarly, the Federal Capital will elect two senators, one each on general and technocrat seat.

Most prominent among the retiring senators is Mian Raza Rabbani who will be long remembered for taking landmark measures and policy decisions, both legislative and in terms of administration, for the Senate’s turnaround as a vibrant and highly productive legislature during his three-year stint.

Others to make exit from the Senate include Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, the widely-respected and perhaps the most vocal Farhatullah Babar, Taj Haider, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Tahir Hussain Mashhadi and Hafiz Hamdullah.

Four of the provincial assemblies vote for their representatives, whereas the Fata senators are elected by the MNAs from the tribal areas and the Islamabad senators by the National Assembly.

In all, the PPP will lose 18 of its 26 senators, PML-N will lose nine, ANP five, PML-Q four, MQM four, JUI-F three, BNP-Awami two, PTI and PML-F one and five independents will also go home. None will be retiring from PkMAP, JI, BNP-M and the National Party.

The Upper House of the Parliament consists of 104 members: 23 each from the four federating units; eight from Fata and four from Islamabad. The 23 seats allocated to a province comprise 14 general seats, four reserved for women, four for technocrats and one for minority (member).

Though the term of a senator is six years, 50 percent of the total numbers retire after every three years and elections are held for new ones. Elections to fill the seats, allocated to each province, are held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

In recent years, a new trend is being seen i.e. political parties are getting elected members of the Senate from other provinces or even from Islamabad, despite having background from other federating units.

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