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February 5, 2018

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PML-N to rule the roost in Senate from next month

ISLAMABAD: After nineteen years, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will be in a position to elect its cardholder as the chairman of the Senate next month with the support of its allied parties.

After the March 3 election to half of the Senate, the PML-N’s final tally will come around 35, which obviously will be short of even simple majority, 51pc, in the 104-member chamber to elect its nominee as the upper house chief.

However, it will certainly emerge as the largest force in the Senate with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) trailing it having less than even half its seats. After the imposition of martial law in October 1999, the PML-N never got the requisite majority in the Senate to have its candidate elected as the chairman. In 2015, it had a good chance to make it to the top office but Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Asif Zardari's maneuverings made it impossible although the two parties had an equal number of seats. But now it will be an uphill task for the PML-N's rivals to block its bid to get its representative elected as the Senate chairman.

Starting in 2009, the PPP secured the top Senate slot for three three-year consecutive terms (Nayyar Bokhari, Farooq H Naek and Raza Rabbani). Before that, and after Pervez Musharraf’s strike, the PML-Q has its Senate Chairman (Muhammadmian Soomro) for six years from 2003 to 2009. Previously, the PML-N’s Wasim Sajjad acted as the Senate chief for ten years following Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Given the present numerical picture in the electoral college – the provincial assemblies -, PPP’s total strength will be reduced to around fifteen senators. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will clinch the third position having a couple of less votes that the PPP’s.

Owing to the retirement of its senators, the PML-N will be deprived of eight legislators from Punjab and one from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). It has no sitting senators from Balochistan and Sindh. After excluding these nine senators from its numbers, its tally comes down to eighteen. It has a total of twenty-seven senators including disqualified Nehal Hashmi because the seat falling vacant due to his ineligibility will be definitely secured by it from Punjab in the by-election.

In the fresh Senate election, the PML-N will get all the twelve seats from Punjab against the retirement of eight seats from this province. In 2015, it had won all the eleven seats from Punjab.

Against its loss of one seat from KP, the PML-N is likely to have a couple of its nominees elected from this provincial assembly. The two seats vacated by the PPP and PML-Q from the federal capital will also be bagged by the PML-N because of its hold over the National Assembly.

Currently, the PML-N has no senator from Balochistan. This time, it may get a couple of its representatives elected although before the “coup” against its (ousted) Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri it was surely to secure some five seats. Since its parliamentary party has become “independent”, it is unlikely to vote for the PML-N nominees en masse.

The PML-N has seven lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly, which makes it obvious that it will not gain anything from there. However, if its legislators support the PML-Functional (that they may), which has nine members, Pir Pagara’s cardholder may win.

The PPP with its present strength of twenty-five senators will lose seven lawmakers from Sindh, four each from KP and Balochistan, one from the federal capital and two from Punjab. Thus, the total loss will come to eighteen MPs.

As against the retirement of its seven senators from Sindh, the PPP will obtain seven or eight members elected out of the total allotted quota of 12 seats. However, if the present number of its lawmakers in the assemblies of Punjab, KP and Balochistan (zero) is any guide, it is going to be wiped out in these federating units as it may not achieve even one seat from there if the exercise remained fair and honest.

By having only eight lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly, it is futile to expect that the PPP has any possibility to obtain anything in the forthcoming Senate election. Same will be the case in the KP Assembly where it has only six lawmakers. However, if it makes an alliance with the Awami National Party (ANP), which has five seats, there is a chance to secure a candidate of either party elected. The PPP has not a single lawmaker in the Balochistan Assembly. If it managed to get any number of its representatives elected from there even in the garb of independents, it will be the result of unfair dealing.

The PTI, which presently has seven senators, all elected from KP, will be deprived of one member with his retirement. However, it will make up the loss by getting its nominees elected from this provincial assembly. Its final tally will reach to around thirteen senators.

The PTI, which is the second largest party in the Punjab Assembly with 30 legislators after the PML-N, may manage one seat from here if it succeeds in getting the votes of all the opposition parties. It seems a distant possibility. With its present tally it had failed to make any gains in the 2015 Senate election. The numerical scenario is unchanged.

With four lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly, it will be futile for the PTI to think of winning even any seat from this legislature. Because of the revolt of the PML-N parliamentary party in Balochistan, there are chances that its members may vote for “independent” candidates, who may later join some party that had entered a secret agreement with them.

Of the six ANP senators, five will retire whereas it is not in a position to win even a single seat this time with its five lawmakers in the KP Assembly. The PML-Q, which presently has six senators, who all are retiring now, will be left with a very nominal say or no say whatsoever in the Senate. Its eight lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly can make its candidate Kamil Ali Agha senator.

However, in the Balochistan Assembly it has officially five legislators including the newly elected chief minister, Abdus Qaddus Bizenjo, who may be in a position to elect only one senator with support of his party members. The chief minister, who made to this office without any contribution or even knowledge of the PML-Q, may spring a surprise by bagging seats more than what the number of its legislators could elect.

Of eight Muthidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) senators, four will retire. It will get four of its nominees elected from the Sindh Assembly, thus maintaining its present position. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman has five senators. Out of them three are retiring. In view of its numerical strength of eight and sixteen lawmakers in the Balochistan and KP assemblies respectively, it will easily make up the loss.

The National Party (NP) of Hasil Bizenjo having three senators with none retiring now will conveniently add two members to its present tally from the Balochistan assembly. The Pakhtunkhwa Mill Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Achakzai, which currently has three senators with none retiring now, is in a position to take its number to six with its 14 members of the Balochistan Assembly.

Half of eight senators belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are going home now. These vacancies will be filled up by the votes of twelve members of the National Assembly representing the same region. A total of 52 senators - twelve each from Punjab and Sindh, eleven each from KP and Balochistan, two from the federal capital and four from the Fata - are retiring now.

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