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March 4, 2021

Senate 2021

Editorial

 
March 4, 2021

In what has been described as a major 'upset', the Senate election yesterday saw former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani win the Islamabad seat against the PTI's Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh. The SC case on the open ballot and the past few days of allegations and video footage and rumours and whispers, along with the narrative pushed by the PDM, had brought the Senate polls a lot more attention. Which is probably also why the victory of Gilani, the joint candidate of the PDM, came as a surprise to many. Hours before the election began, PTI leaders had expressed absolute confidence that their candidate Hafeez Sheikh would claim the seat by a large margin. They spoke of 176 out of 181 invited persons turning up at the lunch reception hosted for them and expressed confidence that Sheikh's margin would be clear and send out a definite message as to the loyalty of the PTI members to their party. However, Wednesday saw Gilani winning with 169 votes, while Sheikh claimed 164 votes. Seven votes were discarded. In a Senate election, where members are presumably educated and had been briefed carefully on how to vote, this is surprising.

The controversy now will of course rage on. Already the PTI is pointing fingers and accusing the opposition parties of horse-trading and other acts of corruption. The videos released earlier of Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son apparently advising legislators how to invalidate their ballots will no doubt be used in aid of their argument. The PTI has said it may challenge the result, but it would be difficult to make up a loss in which seven votes were discarded, each of which was scrutinized by the polling agent.

Now, the race for a new chairman of the Senate will be interesting to watch, and of course Gilani appears to be a strong candidate for the top slot. His win has given the PDM a psychological boost to continue their campaign against the government, which will find it a bit difficult to counter the opposition’s challenge. The PDM was already talking about a no-confidence vote against the government and if it manages to get Gilani elected as the new Senate chairman, a likely no-confidence move in the National Assembly is not unlikely. Whatever the final result of this exercise, at least one point we must keep in mind. The beauty of democracy is in its independent functioning. The bicameral parliament that we have is a strong sign of a working federation. To strengthen this federation, both the National Assembly and the Senate must play their roles and all institutions must remain within their duly assigned ambit. Whatever went on behind the scenes or before the cameras, this is a big blow to the PTI. It will remain so regardless of how the Senate shapes out in the end. Meanwhile, we are left to ponder politics in Pakistan and the curious equations it throws up from time to time.