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February 28, 2021

Amicable ‘muk-muka’ benefits sworn political adversaries equally


February 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD: A mutually beneficial deal has been amicably reached in the Senate elections from Punjab, with the parliamentary players securing exactly the number of seats as their numerical strengths in the provincial assembly.

The unopposed election of 11 senators forestalled every kind of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. No bucks changed hands; no lobbying was needed to wean away the votes of the rivals in the electoral college; no complaints of the use of strong-arm methods emerged; and no allegations of the use of state machinery surfaced.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), that have been at each other’s throats for the past six years, voluntarily consented to this compromise. The accord saved both parties from the hard struggle of squeezing out seats according to the number of their members in the Punjab assembly.

Considering the hype created over the Senate elections, the political temperature and the overall environment that prevails on the eve of the electoral exercise, both parties feared that its rival would snatch a seat or two from it by roping in MPAs from the other side.

A good number of MPAs, particularly those who wanted to exploit the situation to get their demands accepted, must have been disappointed by this turn of events. As a result of the reciprocally satisfying give and take, they lost their importance. Both sides were spared the hassle of engaging in the campaign to persuade MPAs to vote for one Senate candidate or the other.

The claims and counter-claims of the PTI and PML-N that several MPAs were unhappy with their leaders and would not vote for the nominees of their parties became inconsequential because of the uncontested election. Five PML-N defectors had switched sides several months ago and had been expelled from the party. These defectors were also rendered irrelevant thanks to the deal.

Both the PML-N and PTI are equally pleased that they have got what they deserved without making any effort.

The man who worked as the honest broker to thrash out the deal was Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi. His PML-Q, which is an ally of the PTI, also managed to get one Senate seat. Being an old hand in politics, he opened communication channels with the PML-N, which agreed to the arrangement without hesitation. Consequently, the PTI and PML-N bagged five seats each in Punjab while the PML-Q got one seat. The deal was not possible without the approval of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

Given the perennially confrontational politics in which the Senate elections have been portrayed as a do-or-die clash between the PTI and its allies and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) constituents, this development in Punjab has come as a surprise.

Both sides maintained complete secrecy about the talks that were held to reach this agreement. The accord became public knowledge only after it was consummated and when as many candidates remained in the race as the number of Senate seats.

The agreement proved that despite their intense animosity, politicians do possess the ability to resolve even the trickiest of issues through debate and discussion.

There have been many instances when even consensus constitutional amendments have been passed by parliament within minutes. This becomes possible only when the parliamentary actors have the will. In such cases, agreements were always hammered out before moving the requisite bills in parliament.

The best example is the 18th amendment that introduced a number of important changes in the Constitution. It had been passed by the Senate and the National Assembly in 2010 within no time. The reason was that a 26-member parliamentary committee of 14 parties headed by Senator Raza Rabbani had worked for months and finally prepared the consensus amendment.

In Punjab’s case, Pervaiz Elahi, who had been tasked by Prime Minister Imran Khan to oversee the Senate election in the provincial assembly and work as the leader of the ruling coalition’s show, took the initiative to sort out the issue that could have led to the usual dirty politics involving vote-buying.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any influential figure in the National Assembly and the three other provincial legislatures who can perform such a role by rising above extreme partisan politics.