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February 3, 2018
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What if party nominee doesn’t make it to Senate?

National

February 3, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Lobbying by very powerful circles or money changing hands will float on the surface of the electoral process if any party obtained Senate seats in disproportion to its numerical strength in any provincial assembly in the March 3 election.

In the electoral college of the Senate -- the provincial assemblies -- the number of legislators belonging to every political party is known to all and sundry. Even before the polling, it is crystal clear the precise tally of senators that every political party will be able to get elected from every provincial legislature.

Before the election, every party forms groups of provincial members, making it known to them as to which cluster will vote for which contestant. It also decides about the first and second preferences they are required to give to different party nominees. Thus, the full picture becomes clear prior to the process. If any party gets more than what its lawmakers could have voted in, it would be beyond an iota of doubt that corruption enhanced the number. However, it has always been a colossal predicament to prove monetary considerations as both the sides -- the benefactor and the beneficiary -- obsessively try to keep the dealing under the wraps.

However, if this time when extraordinary judicial activism is being witnessed, the matter went to a superior court, the concerned political party will have to prove how it managed the seats that it couldn’t bag on the basis of the number of its legislators. There are also instances when some political parties avoided officially sponsoring candidates in certain provincial assemblies in which they did not have much say but fielded affluent figures as independent competitors to fight on the force of money. After their election, they had been joining these very parties, ending their independent status.

For example, it is a hard fact that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) dominate the Sindh Assembly. If all goes well and the exercise remains legitimate, they will get their nominees elected in proportion to their respective strength. The smaller parties including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and PML-Functional may be able to squeeze one seat if they join hands and support one consensus competitor in the voting.

The biggest challenge to avert involvement of money will be faced in Balochistan where vote-buying, vote-selling allegations had frequently emerged in the past. But no action was ever taken by any forum leading to the ouster of the MP who landed in the Upper House through this shady dealing.

As per its strength in this provincial assembly, the PML-N counted more than four Senate seats from Balochistan. However, it plunged into a deep crisis when, barring a few legislators, its entire parliamentary party rebelled against it, ousted its chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and elected Abdul Qaddus Bizenjo of the PML-Q, which has only four seats, in his place.

All 21 provincial lawmakers were elected on the PML-N tickets, making it the single largest party in the provincial assembly. Considering their revolt, it will be major question whether or not they will vote for its nominees in the Senate election. In any case, the PML-N is going to sponsor as many candidates as it hopes on the basis of its numerical strength to elect.

The lawmakers belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), National Party (NP) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) in the Balochistan Assembly will certainly favour the candidates nominated by their parties because of the internal discipline they follow. The PPP doesn’t have even a single legislator in this assembly.

The election of any independent aspirant or those sponsored by parties, which have no or less support in the Balochistan Assembly, returned, would unquestionably raise serious doubts about the integrity and honesty of the process. Underhand business is easy to do in Balochistan as a candidate, who wants to make it to the Senate on the force of money, did not require the support of several provincial legislators. Nearly six members are sufficient to elect one senator. In every other provincial assembly, many more lawmakers are needed for election of a runner.

Similarly, the PML-N has an unprecedented domination in the Punjab Assembly, and thus there is no doubt about the number of Senate seats it will clinch. If the PTI, which is the second largest party in the provincial legislature, joins hands with the PPP and other smaller groups in this assembly, they may be in a position to secure one seat. The case of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in which the PTI is the single largest party is no different with the numerical position of every parliamentary groups being clear.

The election to half of the Senate, 52 members, will be held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote under the Constitution. Being the symbol of Federation, every province has equal representation in it.

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