ISLAMABAD: The ruling alliance — comprising PML-N, PPP, MQM-P and other smaller parties — is set to gain a two-thirds majority in the upper house of parliament as voting will be held on the 30 vacant seats today.

Polling will start at 9:00am and continue till 4:00pm at the National Assembly, Punjab Assembly and Sindh Assembly while all the 11 candidates in Balochistan have been elected unopposed.

On the other hand, the situation regarding voting in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly is unclear due to a stand-off between the provincial government and opposition over the oath-taking of MPAs-elect on the reserved seats.

Instead of complying with the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) recent order to administer the oath to the legislators-elect, KP Speaker Babar Saleem Swati has filed a review petition with the court on the eve of the polling.

“All arrangements are in place to hold the electoral process. Regarding the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Election Commission will closely watch the related developments today prior to deciding the future course of action,” a senior official at the Election Commission, when approached over the telephone told The News.

He pointed out that the Election Commission stood by its order of delaying polling to fill the Senate’s vacant seats in KP if the oath was not administered to the MPAs-elect as per the PHC order.

The official agreed that this was the first time that the commission was facing such a crisis-like situation, insisting the electoral body would stick to the Constitution and the election laws.

The polling was scheduled to be conducted to elect 48 senators, initially, 11 each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, 12 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad.

However, after the unopposed election of 18 senators from Punjab and Balochistan, now the elections will be held for 30 vacant seats and 59 candidates are in the field to reach the Senate.

Punjab

Out of the 12 Senate seats from Punjab, seven senators of different political parties have already been elected unopposed.

Political pundits say that as per the numbers game, the PML-N and its allies have 248 votes in the Punjab Assembly while the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) has 107 votes. It means PMLN women and technocrats will get 124 votes each against SIC candidates’ 53.5 votes each.

Those who already have been elected as senators without facing any contest are PML-N leaders Pervez Rasheed, Nasir Mehmood, Talal Chaudhry and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Ahad Cheema while Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, who was a candidate of the ruling alliance, has also been elected.

SIC-backed Raja Nasir Abbas and Hamid Khan are also among the newly-elected parliamentarians.

On the technocrat seat, Mustafa Ramday withdrew his nomination papers, whereas Shahzad Waseem, Musadik Malik, Walid Iqbal and Umar Ijaz Cheema took back their nominations from general seats.

Now the Senate elections will be held on five seats including two women, two technocrats and one minority in Punjab.

According to political analysts, there is a possibility that PML-N candidates may win the seats of women and technocrats.

From the PML-N side, Muhammad Aurangzeb and Musadik Malik are contesting on technocrat seats while Anusha Rehman and Bushra Anjum Butt are contesting on women’s seats. Other candidates are Faiza Malik representing the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Sanam Javed nominated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

On the minority seat, there may be a contest between Khalil Tahir Sindhu and Asif Ashiq of the PMLN and Sindhu may win with a big margin due to a clear advantage.

Sindh

Meanwhile, in the Sindh Assembly, the ruling PPP is most likely to win 10 out of the 12 seats up for grabs where 20 candidates are in the run. The PPP has fielded 11 candidates.

The polls are being held for seven general seats, two seats for technocrats, two seats for women and one seat for religious minorities from the province in the Senate.

Given the current position of parliamentary parties in the provincial legislature, MQM-P’s lone candidate for the Senate election in Sindh is sure to succeed.

Given the highly fragmented position of the opposition MPAs in the House, it is highly unlikely for the MQM-P to clinch more than one seat, which is why it has fielded just one candidate for a general seat.

The PPP is sure to clinch five of the seven general seats and, in the current circumstances, it has the highest probability of winning even the sixth seat as well.

Reports, however, are rife that the PPP and MQM-P have reached an understanding to tacitly give support for the success of independent candidate Faisal Vawda against a general seat.

Vawda, a former federal minister and an ex-PTI leader, is contesting the Senate election independently. The proposer and seconders of his candidature from the PA are MQM-P MPAs.

He surely needs support from MPAs of both the PPP and MQM-P to win the seat. An influential MQM-backed candidate, Najeeb Haroon, who is a former PTI MNA, has withdrawn from the electoral race apparently to pave the way for Vawda’s victory.

Meanwhile, six independent candidates backed by the PTI are also in the race, but there is little chance of their victory due to the very thin presence of PTI-backed MPAs in the PA.

The PPP seems sure of also winning the two seats reserved for technocrats and women each, and one seat for minorities.

The PPP’s candidates are Syed Masroor Ahsan, Syed Kazim Ali Shah, Jeean Khan Sarfaraz Rajar, Nadeem Ahmed Bhutto, Dost Ali Jessar, Ashraf Ali Jatoi, Sarmad Ali, Zamir Hussain Ghumro, Poonjo, Qurat-ul-Ain Marri and Rubina Qaimkhani.

The MQM-P’s candidate for a general seat is Amir Waliuddin Chishti. The PTI-backed independent candidates are Mehjabeen Riaz, Ali Tahir, Mir Raja Khan Jakhrani, Abdul Wahab, Manzoor Ahmed Bhutta and Bhagwan Das.

Islamabad

For the federal capital’s two seats — one general and one for technocrat — the PPP has fielded Mehmoodul Hassan and PML-N Muhammad Ihsaq Dar respectively, who will be facing the Sunni Ittehad Council’s Farzand Hussain and Raja Ansar Mehmood.

What would be the party position after the polls?

As per the legislators’ parlance, and if polling is held as scheduled, there is a strong possibility of the ruling coalition parties, namely PMLN and PPP, managing to get a two-thirds majority in the House.

However, the PTI will most likely maintain its status as the single largest party.

It goes without saying that the new senators, belonging to the opposition, will be in a position to make the proceedings stormier but going by the rules of the game, they would not be able to impede legislation, floated by the ruling coalition.

Presently, the PTI has 20 maximum members in the House, including those elected unopposed recently, and can add at least seven more seats to its tally from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, if polling is conducted there.

The PPP, set to emerge as the second largest party to win 10 to 11 seats from Sindh and one each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad, presently has 13 members but after winning 12 to 13 seats in the elections, with 25 to 26 members.

Likewise, the PMLN also has 13 senators presently, like PPP, and is expected to win another seven seats: five from Punjab and one each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad; thus becoming the third largest party in the Senate.

The Senate will comprise 96 members: 23 each from the four federating units and four from Islamabad. The 23 seats allocated to a province consist of 14 general seats, four reserved for women and as many for technocrats, and one for minority member.

The elections to fill the Senate seats allocated to each province are held in accordance with the ‘system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote’.

That is why the Senate elections always depend on the party positions in the four provincial legislators and the National Assembly as well. 



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