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Saturday December 04, 2021

Govt wins Senate chairman, deputy election

Government's Sadiq Sanjrani won with 48 votes and Opposition's candidate Gilani got only 42, though with majority in the Upper House, as seven votes were rejected due to ‘wrong’ affixing of the stamp

March 13, 2021

Govt wins Senate chairman, deputy election

ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition candidates Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani and Mirza Muhammad Afridi were elected chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, defeating the joint opposition’s Yusuf Raza Gilani and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Friday.

Despite majority in the Senate, the opposition tasted two shocking back-to-back defeats: Sanjrani pocketed 48 votes while his rival Gilani received 42, as seven votes were rejected due to ‘wrong’ affixing of the stamp. The polling was conducted through secret ballot. This is Sanjrani’s second term as the Senate chairman. The PML-F Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah was the presiding officer for the election of chairman Senate.

The Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) Gilani had defeated the ruling coalition’s Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh in the March 3 Senate polls, taking 169 votes, while his rival secured 164 votes, and at that time also coincidentally seven votes were rejected.

Likewise, Mirza Afridi got 54 votes, while his rival Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri secured 44 votes. Interestingly, this time, no vote was rejected and all the 98 votes polled were declared valid by Chairman Senate Sanjrani, who was administered oath by the presiding officer and he then conducted the deputy chairman’s polling process. Senator Hidayatullah was Mirza Afridi’s polling agent and Maulana Haideri’s agent was Senator Kamran Murtaza. Earlier, Senator Farooq H Naek of the PPP, who was Gilani’s polling agent, contested the rejection of seven votes and insisted that there was no mention of affixing the stamp inside the box and not outside.

He also argued it was also nowhere mentioned that the stamp cannot be affixed on the candidate’s name. “Either should the rules and instructions be torn apart or this issue should be duly considered. The Senate Secretariat had also told us that stamp inside the box will be valid and the Senate secretary also said the stamp should be affixed within the box,” he noted. He contended why a vote should be cancelled because of the mistake of the Senate Secretariat.

Sanjrani’s polling agent Senator Mohsin Aziz rose to say that the instructions were very clearly written that a member would affix the stamp ahead of the name of the candidate of his choice and there was no mention of affixing the stamp on his name.

The presiding officer said that he had heard both the polling agents and the ballot papers were designed as such that a voter was to affix the stamp ahead of the candidate’s name. “Hence, I am of the view that all these seven ballot papers are rejected,” he ruled. And then he announced that according to the result, Sanjrani had got 48 and his rival got 42 votes. The PDM lodged a strong protest over the result.

Earlier in the day, the discovery of spy cameras fixed over the polling booth surprised many. Opposition’s Senators Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Dr Musadik Malik spotted the devices, hours before the election of the chairman and deputy chairman. Later, the presiding officer announced to form a probe panel, consisting of three senators each from the government and opposition. Voting for the election of chairman started at around 3:18pm and concluded at 4:48pm but on the desire of the opposition, the counting was started at 5:00pm, the scheduled time after bells were rung for a minute. Earlier, the name of JI’s Senator Mushtaq Ahmed who had boycotted the election, was announced summoning him to cast his ballot.

The House consisted of 99 members, as Ishaq Dar who is in self-exile in London was denotified by the ECP in June 2018. However, as announced a day earlier, the JI senator stayed away from the election process and hence 98 senators took part in voting. The Senate secretary called out names of senators alphabetically and they cast their votes. Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was the first to poll his vote and Zeeshan Khanzada was the last. For convenience of members, the stamp was replaced after every 25 votes. One senator was issued a second ballot, after the stamp ran out of ink. Massive desk thumping was witnessed in the House by members when their rival candidates came for casting of their votes.

After having been administered oath amid chants of ‘no, no’ by some opposition senators, Sanjrani thanked the members, who voted for him and Prime Minister Imran Khan, his own party Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Jam Kamal for his nomination and support. Immediately after announcing the result of election of deputy chairman, Sanjrani administered oath to Mirza Afridi, which he did among desk thumping by the treasury members. Moments after he took oath, the opposition senators walked out of the House. At both times, before the announcement of the formal results, the treasury members started celebrations and greeting one another. The special session consisted of two sittings and the first sitting in the morning was devoted to oath-taking by the 48 senators-elect, which was conducted by the presiding officer. They have been elected for a term of six years from 2021 to 2027.

Before reading out the prorogation of order from the president, Sanjrani made an announcement of the Senate rules 15-16 regarding the independent members and declaration of the leader of opposition. He said as per the rules, the independent members will inform the Senate secretary within seven days in writing on their option of joining the treasury benches or the opposition benches.

Likewise, the members in the opposition, including independent members, who support the opposition benches, may submit names for leader of opposition, who enjoy support of the majority in the opposition to the government. He noted that independent members, including one member from Fata, who has not given his option to join the opposition, shall not be eligible to support any member or office of leader of opposition. In this context, letters are being dispatched to all the concerned, he added.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvaiz Elahi, MNAs Ch Moonis Elahi and Ch Saalik Hussain while congratulating Sadiq Sanjrani on winning the election of chairman Senate, termed his victory the success of democracy and transparency.