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Tuesday May 28, 2024

Senate polls: PPP assures PDM parties of establishment’s neutrality

By Ansar Abbasi
February 17, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party has assured the PML-N and other PDM parties that the establishment would remain neutral in the upcoming Senate elections.

Yousaf Raza Gillani’s nomination as the opposition’s consensus candidate from the federal capital is also the consequence of that assurance from the PPP. That is why the PPP’s former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was the proposer while the PML-N’s ex-premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi seconded the name of Gillani.

According to a PML-N MNA, who is otherwise known for his anti-establishment views, the PPP is convinced that the situation has changed and the establishment will not play any role in the forthcoming elections.

Perhaps that explains why Maryam Nawaz in her speech at the Wazirabad public rally on Monday said that the “selectors” have been forgiven. While addressing them as “meray pyaray selectors” (my dear selectors), she hoped that they would not repeat their past mistakes in future.

A day before this sudden change of heart for the selectors --who have been relentlessly criticised by Nawaz Sharif and Maryam in recent months – PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah talked about the withdrawal of the establishment’s backing to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government. Sanaullah did not offer any further explanation for his observation.

The DG ISPR in one of his recent interactions with the media categorically denied that there are any behind-the-scenes contacts between the army and the political parties or their leaders. The military spokesman reiterated that the army has no role in politics and asked those talking about backdoor contacts between the army and political leaders to come up with evidence.

As for the upcoming Senate elections, the PDM parties have positive expectations from the establishment and they hope the institution will stay neutral during this important political event. According to a PDM leader, the ruling PTI is quite upset at the moment and fears losing its votes. For the same reason, it is said, the government is expecting the apex court to allow an open ballot in the Senate polls, which most legal experts argue cannot be allowed without a constitutional amendment. Even the ECP has categorically said that without amending the Constitution, balloting for the Senate elections would remain secret.

The Chief Election Commissioner, who was summoned by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, also told the apex court that the Senate elections are held via secret balloting as per Article 226 of the Constitution. When asked by the court what a secret ballot is, the CEC responded that a secret ballot is one where voters cannot be identified. He explained that there is a procedure for voting highlighted in the Election Act. He also clarified that that the ECP under the law cannot take action against candidates for voting for any candidate against the party line.