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March 8, 2018

Political workers fear horse-trading in election of Senate chairman


March 8, 2018

PESHAWAR: Though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned politicians to present proof about the alleged horse-trading in the recent Senate election, the political leaders and workers are asking whether the use of money has ended at a time when the Upper House of Parliament has yet to elect its chairman and his deputy.

Certain political parties have formed committees to probe the allegations of vote-selling. In their separate chats with The News, the leaders from different political parties observed that horse trading was still taking place. They feared the use of money in the election for the offices of the Senate chairman and deputy chairman.

They pointed out that the leaders of certain major political parties, who reportedly purchased votes, would flout rules and regulations with impunity. "It [horse-trading] is an art. Some have mastered it, leaving behind no trail of evidence," a political analyst opined.

He said the ECP must take practical steps to prevent the use of money in the Senate election as it undermined democracy and the Parliament in addition to damaging the reputation of the politicians.

Quoting the ECP officials, some politicians wishing not to be named said there was no law to prevent the lawmakers from giving in to temptation and selling their vote. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan alleged that Rs40 million were paid for a single vote in the Senate polls, but there was no proof because the buyers and sellers didn't leave behind any proof.

All this is done under an agreement between two or more individuals who seal the deal behind closed doors. Before the Senate election, every party had formed a committee to educate the lawmakers about following the correct procedure for voting.

They were also allotted code numbers. By doing so, the parties had tried to block the way of expected horse-trading and also identify in case the members violated party discipline. This was also a kind of mistrust in the elected legislators by their parties, but it still couldn't check the practice of horse-trading. It is alleged more than two dozen lawmakers didn't vote for the party candidates.

During a visit to the MPAs' hostel in Peshawar, an elderly man Rehmanullah who had come from Swabi along with his son to get his application signed by the concerned lawmaker, cursed democracy in which elected members sold their conscience.

He said that everyone demanded action against those who sold their votes, but few sought punishment for the ones who indulged in vote-buying. "They (buyers) should also be held accountable," he said. However, he added as to who would take action as it was next to impossible to prove the allegation.

Abdul Qadir, a student accompanying the elderly person, quipped, "Who will present proof?" He said he had been applying for government employment after completing graduation, but has yet to land a job.

Pakistan People's Party (PPP)'s MPA Ziaullah Afridi, who remained provincial minister of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) before being expelled, alleged that Imran Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak sold party tickets and distributed Rs7 million among party members in a bid to dissuade them from selling their votes. He said both the PTI bigwigs should offer themselves for accountability instead of levelling accusation against others.

Ziaullah Afridi said the PTI members would become approvers and turn the tables on Imran Khan in the next general election. An MPA wishing anonymity said that in the recent Senate election, the party chiefs had to offer 'monetary package' to their own party legislators to ensure they remained 'loyal'. He said the practice had been going on since long.

The elected senators could explain as to how they managed to return to the Upper House of Parliament as they didn't have the number of voters required for winning a Senate seat. The candidates of certain political parties that didn't have the required numerical strength made it to the Senate and their 'skills' left political pundits scratching their heads.

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