Monday December 05, 2022

Senate polls to expose defectors

March 03, 2018

Islamabad: All the parliamentary parties will easily come to know about the precise number of defections from their ranks in the March 3 Senate election as these will be exposed by desertions from any specific bloc of provincial legislators to be formed by them to vote for certain candidates.

If a particular competitor loses or gets less votes than allotted, it will become clear that some members of his bloc allocated to him by his party crossed floor and violated its discipline. The parliamentary forces have firmed up groups of lawmakers with clear instructions as to which nominees they will vote. Thus, every legislator will know the aspirant before time he will support.

As a result, every parliamentary party will get only those ticketholders elected it is in a position to do so on the basis of number of its legislators in a particular assembly if its lawmakers strictly follow its directions.

The blocs built by the parties will be largely valid for general seats. The parliamentary forces that will be in majority in a particular assembly will conveniently bag majority of special seats for women, technocrats and minorities.

Credible apprehensions have been raised about money changing hands in the Senate polls at least in two provincial assemblies. In Balochistan, the provincial members elected on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tickets rebelled against it at the time of moving the no-trust motion against its chief minister and supported the new man, Abdus Qaddus Bizenjo.

It is anybody’s guess which party will get what from the Balochistan Assembly and how many independent candidates, who are in the race in a large number, will be elected. The PML-N has fielded only those contestants that it has the numerical strength to elect.

Fears also exist about shady dealings in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly by some parliamentary parties, which are devoid of the requisite number to elect even one senator. However, conscious of the vote-buying menace, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and opposition parties are engaged in talks to conclude a formula so that every side gets the seats it deserves due to their number of provincial assembly members.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has announced to name and shame those elected on the force of monetary considerations, engineering defections in parliamentary parties. It will be no less than a surprise if the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), which landed in a chaotic situation on the eve of the Senate polls, gets its due seats. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) may benefit from the anarchy besetting the MQM-P, and with this expectation in view it has fielded more competitors that it is required to put up on the basis of its numerical strength in the Sindh Assembly.

If the PML-N’s lawmakers in the Punjab legislature followed the party directions, and they certainly will if Thursday’s polls to fill the seat that fell vacant due to Nihal Hashmi’s disqualification is any guide, its nominees, who were declared independents by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the Supreme Court’s judgment removing deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif as its president, all of its cardholders will win, clinching the twelve seats from this province.

However, if all the opposition parties join hands and support any one runner, he has the chances of securing the seat. It is all about this one general seat in Punjab where two women, two technocrats, one minority and seven general seats are to be filled.

For technocrat and women seats, a successful candidate needs 186 first preference votes, which is impossible for any party other than the PML-N to get this magic number. So, the PML-N is way past the safety zone. Similarly one minority seat is practically a walkover for its representative Kamran Michael.

For seven general seats a candidate requires a minimum of 53 first preference votes. Thus, of them six PML-N nominees are again safe and will pass the goal post smoothly. The contest for the seventh general seat is between PTI’s Chaudhry Sarwar, PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha and PPP’s Shahzad Ali Khan, son-in-law of Manzoor Wattoo. They all face the PML-N.

Chaudhry Sarwar has an edge as he starts with 30 first preferences of his PTI lawmakers but he needs a minimum of 53 first preferences. However, his 30 votes head start can be neutralised since all 315 PML-N voters will give second preference to their seventh candidate.

Thus, there are strong chances of tables turning on Chaudhry Sarwar. But he has some wild cards up his sleeves — key among them being the ”Arian card“ as he is a patriarch of this clan in Punjab and considered a great patron of such politicians. When he was in the PML-N, he, as an informal member of PML-N parliamentary board, was instrumental in award of its tickets during the 2013 elections to many Arian candidates.

However, looking at the general political sentiments in Punjab constituencies, all provincial legislators are careful not to fall in doubtful category due to previous proximity with Chaudhry Sarwar.