Sunday September 26, 2021

Senate polls: PTI likely to get Senate chairman slot

December 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: If all goes well, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is going to emerge as the single largest party in the Senate in the March elections but it will still be dependent on its allies to clinch the top position in the Upper House of Parliament and carry out legislation in this chamber.

The post-election scenario is likely to see the PTI and its coalition partners gain a numerical edge over the opposition parties. The fresh tally could be sufficient to elect their nominees as chairman and deputy chairman, a close look at the number of non-retiring and to-be elected senators shows.

The new strength of the ruling alliance might be enough to pass ordinary laws that require a simple majority for their passage, but the numbers will fall far short of the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment.

Calculations show that the PTI could have around 30 Senate seats after the upcoming election. Currently, it has 14 senators. Half of them will retire in March. The party will be able to elect some 22-23 new senators. It will get the biggest numerical boost from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies. It will also secure a share from the Sindh and Balochistan legislatures in proportion to the number of its provincial lawmakers.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will bag second position in terms of its numerical strength after the PTI. Post-election, it could maintain its current strength of 21 members. Eight of its senators will retire and it is likely to elect as many of its candidates from Sindh.

The prime loser will be the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which at present is the single largest party in the Senate. Seventeen out of its 30 senators will be retiring at the next election. It will probably get five of its candidates elected in March, according to the calculations done by its leaders. So, it will have a total of 18 senators (11 non-retiring and 5 newly elected). It will stand at third position after the PTI and PPP.

Interestingly, the Balochistan National Party (BAP), which was formed on the eve of the last Senate election in early 2018, will occupy the fourth position in the Upper House. Of its nine senators, three will be retiring while it is in a position to elect six new members. Its total tally is likely to come to around 12.

This will be the first time that the assemblies elected in the July 2018 parliamentary polls will elect senators. The existing Upper House comprises members voted in by the legislatures elected in the 2013 general polls.

As far as the parliamentary alignments are concerned, there will be hardly any change even after the fresh elections. The PTI and its coalition partners will be on one side of the divide and the opposition parties will be on the other.

However, the Senate, which has been dominated by the opposition since long and has been blocking the present government’s attempts to conduct law-making of its choice, will come under the control of the ruling alliance. Since the opposition parties have been in a majority, most of the 34 retiring senators belong to them. As many as 18 senators from the treasury benches are completing their six-year term this time.

After the fresh elections, the composition of the Senate committees will also undergo changes, particularly in terms of their chairmen. Most of these positions are now held by opposition nominees but will be taken over by the PTI and its allies.

Of course, these predictions and projections will materialise only if the provincial lawmakers vote as directed by their parliamentary parties, opposition lawmakers do not hand in their resignations as announced and the polls are held in all the provincial assemblies like in the past.

The PTI would naturally like to have its nominee as the next Senate chairman. Already, some names are being mentioned in this connection. However, given its numerical position and huge dependence on its allies, it may have to give the slot of deputy chairman to one of its alliance partners, most specifically to a BAP nominee.

Of the incumbent top constitutional federal offices, the prime minister hails from Punjab, the president of Pakistan belongs to Sindh and the National Assembly speaker belongs to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In this scenario, it is not ruled out that the position of the Senate chairman may go to Balochistan. However, there is no constitutional stipulation, allocating these positions to one or more provinces. But an unwritten tradition that has always been followed is that all the federating units are given representation in these central constitutional posts.