LAHORE: Mainstream and regional political parties in clear violation of the actual spirit behind the creation of Senate have been using it as a platform to accommodate their loyalists while ignoring the proper representation of provinces.
The role of Senate defined under the law is to equal representation to all federating units in line with the constitutional role attributed to it which include promotion of national cohesion and harmony.
Quite contrary to this role, the political parties use the Upper House of Parliament to accommodate the people of their own choice picked from other provinces, including party financers, lawyers and those losing in general elections.
Under Article 63, a person stands eligible for Senate if he or she is not less than 30 years in age and is a registered voter of that province. After receiving a go ahead from party leadership sometime before the Senate schedule is announced, the aspirants transfer their vote to the province from where the party intends to award them ticket. And on the basis of the strength in the respective provincial assembly or the National Assembly, it becomes a smooth sailing for any ticket holder to clinch a slot in the Upper House.
In a Federation like Pakistan where Punjab, one of the federating units, has over 50 per cent of the population and hence a key role in decision making and resource allocation, a body like Senate, which is supposed to give equal representation to Senate to provinces, plays a key role but if the political parties accommodate their loyalists from other parts of the country, its spirit is hurt.
The PPP, which claims to be a federation party, has accommodated its loyalists, financers or members having close association with top leaders to the Upper House.
In the upcoming Senate elections being held in March, it has awarded ticket to Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a party ticket holder from Islamabad, who contested the National Assembly elections in 2008 and 2013. Mustafa hails from a renowned political family of Potohar region and his father Haji Mohammed Nawaz Khokhar served as MNA in 1985, 1988, 1990 and also as Deputy Speaker of National Assembly.
Mustafa is currently serving as secretary information of PPP’s Central Punjab chapter and holds a law degree. He has also been adviser to the President of Pakistan on Human Rights but in his entire career, he didn’t have any say in affairs related to Sindh from where he has been awarded the Senate ticket and is in a comfortable position to emerge as parliamentarian.
In the previous elections, the PPP has also set similar precedent in form of awarding Senate tickets to figures like Rehman Malik and Envar Baig who hail from Punjab but were accommodated from Sindh, just because of their close affiliation with the leadership.
The PML-N, a party which won major chunk of seats from Punjab and lost from other three provinces in 2008 polls, accommodated its stalwart from Karachi, Mushahidullah Khan, in 2009 Senate elections from Punjab. Mushahidullah contested the 2002 and 2008 general elections from Karachi on the PML-N ticket and although he claims himself to be from Rawalpindi, his entire life as a trade union and political worker had been spent in Karachi.
In 2015 Senate polls, held a couple of years after the 2013 general elections in which PML-N gained a strength of over 300 MPAs out of a total of 371 of Punjab Assembly besides winning the National Assembly elections with a thumping majority, it accommodated a number of its leaders from other provinces.
Mushahidullah was once again elected from Punjab along with two other PML-N members from Sindh including former provincial minister Salim Zia and Nehal Hashmi. They were rewarded for their loyalty in the MQM-dominated Karachi where they bravely countered the rival parties.
Salim Zia, law minister in the 1997 cabinet of the then chief minister Liaquat Jatoi, was among the few who sided with party head Nawaz Sharif while he was imprisoned in the Landhi Jail and later sent to Attock.
Salim Zia and Nehal Hashmi won the slots but latter had to lose the seat after he was convicted by the court over contempt charges and also disqualified.
Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, a former secretary general of PML-N who hails from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was awarded Senate ticket from Islamabad. Later, the PML-N accommodated Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir of Balochistan and lost the general elections, after Jhagra was appointed as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor. Raheela Magsi, a PML-N woman leader from Sindh, was also accommodated from Islamabad.
The PTI too has followed the same precedent while awarding ticket to Imran Khan’s known stage secretary Faisal Javed from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Faisal hails from Punjab but he has been pitched for the Senate slot from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the PTI has a majority. PTI is expected to win at least five to six seats.
When it comes to regional parties like ANP and MQM, they also accommodate the favourites. Shahi Syed, a resident of Karachi who also heads ANP Sindh chapter, was made Senator by his party from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. ANP, whose entire representation is confined to only one province, had to accommodate Shahi Syed, also a close relative of party head Asfandyar Wali Khan.
Similarly, the MQM – which has constantly been pleading the case of Urdu-speaking Mohajir community of Pakistan, claiming to be an opponent of status quo and a staunch supporter of empowerment of Karachi – accommodated Barrister Saif from Sindh. Barrister Saif has been a staunch supporter of former president Pervez Musharraf and hails from Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but he found a seat in the Upper House with the nod of Altaf Hussein. Mian Attique, a businessman from Islamabad, was also pitched as a candidate from Sindh where MQM had a visible strength in the provincial assembly.
The Senate consists of 104 members. The elections to fill the seats allocated to each province shall be held in accordance with proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The Senate is not subject to dissolution and the term of its members is six years.
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