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November 15, 2018

Can Biradari factor play role in Senate by-polls today?


November 15, 2018

LAHORE: Where the PTI is enjoying an advantage of its numerical strength in the Punjab Assembly, the PML-N can take advantage of “Biradari factor” as well as infighting in the ruling coalition in the Senate by-polls today.

A very thrilling and neck-and-neck contest is expected between the PTI and the PML-N in the Senate by-elections in which two former parliamentarians Saud Majeed and Saira Afzal Tarar will compete against two political workers of Imran Khan ‑ Waleed Iqbal and Seemi Ezdi. Waleed is the grandson of Allama Iqbal whereas Seemi Ezdi is the sister of Jehangir Khan Tareen. The polling will start at 9am and continue till 4pm. The two seats fell vacant as a result of disqualification of two PML-N Senators ‑ Haroon Akhter Khan and Saadia Abbasi ‑ over dual nationality. This is the third by-elections in Punjab in 2018. In the House of 371, so far 369 members have taken oath whereas Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is yet to take oath and one other seat is vacant after its winner Khawaja Saad Rafique took oath in the National Assembly.

The PTI claims the largest share in the House with 180 MPAs and after putting in its allies like the PML-Q with 10 seats, the Rah-e-Haq Party with one seat and a couple of independents, its collective strength stands at 193. On the other hand, the PML-N with 167 MPAs in the House along with seven of the PPP jointly forms a collective strength of 174 members in the PA.

Under the existing numerical strength, it seems easier for the PTI to defeat the PML-N, but still it’s not that easier while keeping in view the internal rifts in the PTI and its relationship with allies. Along with this, the “Biradari factor” can play a key role in the contest.

The PML-N made quite a smart move by pitching Saud Majeed, a renowned political figure from Southern Punjab, who is an Arain by cast. On the female seat, it fielded Saira Afzal Tarar who is from the Jatt clan. In this way, the PML-N awarded tickets to an Arain and a Jatt as a decent chunk of MPAs belong to these two “Biradaris”.

This is noteworthy that both the PTI and the PML-N have run a very vigorous election campaign for the Senate by-polls amid some controversies attached to the ruling coalition in Punjab. Recently, a leaked video showing the PTI’s coalition partner Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi caught attention in which he advised Tareen to control the governor Punjab. Interestingly, the governor himself belongs to the Arain clan and after the recent video tape episode, Sarwar showed an even greater activism for the victory of the PTI candidate like he showed for Dr Shahzad Waseem in the last Senate by-polls. He held regular meetings with MPAs to win vote for Waleed Iqbal and Seemi Ezdi. On Wednesday, he was actively campaigning for the victory of PTI candidates.

Nevertheless, Saud Majeed enjoys the “Biradari” edge over Waleed Iqbal, who isn’t only a newcomer but also doesn’t have deep-rooted connections with the House members. Saud hails from Southern Punjab where he has deep-rooted ties with many noted political groups and MPAs. This connectivity could benefit him.

On the woman seat, Saira Afzal Tarar has run a strong campaign and the presence of a number of Jatt MPAs in the House could be an advantage for her in the secret ballot. Besides, there is also infighting in the PTI groups of Jehangir Tareen and Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Though there are only a few MPAs, around three to five, who represent the group of Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the PTI, they could make a difference in a close contest. In a meeting of the Southern Punjab legislators chaired by the CM Punjab on Wednesday, Javaid Ansari, a PTI MPA elected from Multan, didn’t turn up. However, when contacted, he said due to a ceremony in his constituency, he couldn’t attend the meeting but predicted a remarkable victory for the PTI today. Jehangir Tareen also enjoys good relationships with MPAs of both sides and this could prove beneficial for Seemi Ezdi.

The News contacted the contesting candidates out of which three were available for comment. Saud Majeed while talking to The News hoped for a good result and when Saira Afzal Tarar was contacted and asked whether she foresees her victory, she responded with “Insha'Allah.”

Waleed Iqbal said he was very hopeful that the PTI would continue its winning streak in the Senate by-polls in 2018. He said the same year, Chaudhry Sarwar won the Senate polls and after him, it was Dr Shahzad Wasim. Similarly, he said, the PTI was determined to score victory this time as well. Seemi Ezdi wasn’t available for comment.

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