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Bilawal dispels impression PML-N senators didn’t vote for Gilani: Hunt on for vote spoilers

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Saturday teleconferenced to review the election and agreed to investigate all opposition senators suspected to be 'close' to elected Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

By Ali Raza & Asim Yasin & News Desk & Noor Aftab
March 14, 2021


ISLAMABAD: Following a shock defeat in the elections for the Senate top slots, opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Saturday teleconferenced to review the election and agreed to investigate all opposition senators suspected to be 'close' to elected Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

The trio spoke over the telephone to discuss the PDM’s loss in the elections for Senate chairman and deputy chairman despite holding more numbers that the ruling alliance.

Geo News reported while quoting sources that the three leaders agreed to find out the reasons behind their loss in the elections. Media reports said the phones of the suspected members would also be checked.

“In chairman Senate elections, (seven) votes were rejected (then) how did the government candidate get all the (seven) votes in the election of deputy chairman?” Fazlur Rehman reportedly asked Zardari and Nawaz during the conversation.

They also discussed preparations for the PDM’s upcoming long march and the alliance’s future. During the conversation, PDM chief Fazlur Rehman also reportedly told the leaders of the two largest opposition parties that there was "no point" in holding a long march without the opposition resigning en masse from the assemblies.

Sources said Zardari and Nawaz Sharif told Fazlur Rehman that the option of resigning from assemblies will be discussed later.

Sources said it was also revealed in the teleconference that the seven senators who put the stamp on the name of Gilani were already in the ‘red circle’ and they were especially directed to put the stamp on the name of Gilani on the ballot paper to ensure that they have cast vote as per their party policy. Sources claimed that out of these seven senators, four belonged to the PML-N.

The PDM has also announced an emergency all-party conference March 16 to review the Senate debacle. All opposition parties have been directed to send their leaders to the conference.

The leaders will discuss the prevailing political situation and present a report on behalf of their party regarding the defeat. They will also take the senior leadership into confidence on why seven votes were rejected in polling for the Senate chairman position. They will also address the concerns raised by the JUI-F chief over the defeat of its candidate for the deputy chairman slot. Modalities for the March 26 long march will also be given a final shape in the meeting.

The sources told The News that the meeting was earlier scheduled to be held tomorrow (Monday) but later Maulana Fazlur Rehman informed the component parties that it would now be held on March 16 at the PML-N Secretariat in Islamabad.

The sources said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari would attend the meeting through video link. They said it may be last meeting of PDM before the long march so the participants would try to sort out all the modalities that would enable the opposition parties to solely focus on the preparations across the country.

Meanwhile, the top leadership of the PPP met here to discuss their candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani's defeat in polls held a day earlier for the Senate chairman's position.

Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari met with Gilani to discuss the seven votes rejected by the presiding officer in the polls for the Senate chairman, and finalise a way forward. The party has decided to take the matter to the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Legal wizard of the PPP Senator Farooq H Naek was preparing the petition for the filing the petition in the IHC. The PPP leadership desired that this petition should not filed by the PPP alone but it should be from the platform of the PDM and all the allied parties should become of the part of the petition.

According to sources, the legal team of the PPP told the party leadership that they had sought the record from the Senate Secretariat including the ruling of the presiding officer for the Senate chairman elections as well record of the rejected votes and it could be obtained tomorrow and the petition is likely to be filed in the IHC by Tuesday.

The PPP leadership also formed a legal team comprising Farooq H Naek, Nayyer Bokhari and Lateef Khosa to look into the matter and devise the party's legal strategy.

During the meeting which was held at Zardari House, sources said Bilawal vowed that the PDM would challenge those who stole the votes in the chairman Senate elections. The report with regard to rejection of seven votes has also been presented to the top leadership of the party.

Bilawal dispelled the impression the impression that the PML-N senators did not vote, saying that he did not think that was a divide in the PDM.

Bilawal said: "Everyone showed loyalty. I know, we all know, that we won because of PDM's unity," he said, adding that the recent Upper House polls have "washed the stain of the past Senate elections".

"The theft of seven votes is a failed attempt to divide the Pakistan Democratic Movement," Bilawal said after the meeting.

"The PPP should not be considered weak. We will challenge the theft of our votes within and outside Parliament and on every forum," he said. "PDM will pursue the vote thieves vigorously," he added.