Senate elections: Around the clock

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(Khalid Sibtain)

ISLAMABAD: As the Senate elections are just round the corner, the ruling PTI and the component parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are engaged in hectic make-or-break negotiations to make new alliances for ensuring success of their candidates.

As the Senate elections are just round the corner, the ruling PTI and the component parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are engaged in hectic make-or-break negotiations to make new alliances for ensuring success of their candidates.

In order to win the support of MQM-Pakistan, a PPP delegation — comprising Nasir Hussain Shah, Sharjeel Memon, Murtaza Wahab and Waqar Mehdi — visited the MQM-P’s office in Bahadurabad, Karachi on Saturday and offered to withdraw two of its candidates in favour of MQM-P in the Senate election.

Following the meeting, the party leaders held a joint press conference where they announced the development.

Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said the PPP was ready to withdraw its candidates on two seats but in return the MQM-P will have to support Yusuf Raza Gilani’s election as the new Senate chairman.

The minister said the delegation had met the MQM-P on the direction of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

“The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has said that they will forward our request to their Rabita Committee,” Shah said.

He claimed that the ruling PTI was “very scared in Punjab”, as their members had reservations about the chosen candidates.

Taking over the briefing, MQM-P leader Amir Khan thanked the PPP for the visit and said though PPP was a bit late, it was appreciable that they had put forward their request to the MQM-P.

Khan said his party had appealed to PPP to put an end to the “feeling of deprivation” among the citizens of Sindh.

“The issue of partnership and local bodies is also a problem. The interest around Senate elections will wane eventually, but the problems will still need to be resolved,” he said.

According to INP, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) Chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal along with a parliamentary delegation met Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind in Quetta.

Mengal, a former ally of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) met PTI Balochistan President and Education Minister Sardar Yar Muhammad.

Political situation in the country including the Senate elections on March 3 came under discussion. Mengal was accompanied by the members of assembly from his party.

Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Saturday made an electoral alliance with the PDM after getting support for its candidate for a seat reserved for women.

The move increased the chances of the PDM to secure the desired results in the election for the Upper House of Parliament in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), where the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is dominant with two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly.

Three major PDM parliamentary parties, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), reached consensus with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to field five joint candidates for different seats in the Senate elections.

The decision was made at a meeting of the allied parties at the residence of PPP provincial President Humayun Khan in Peshawar. It was attended by Abbas Afridi and Mian Alamgir Shah of PML-N, Farhatullah Babar, Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha and Ahmad Karim Kundi of PPP, Maulana Lutfur Rahman and Mehmud Bhittani from JUI-F, Hidayatullah Khan and Sardar Hussain Babak of ANP and Inayatullah Khan from JI.

It was unanimously decided that the PML-N, JUI and ANP candidates would contest the elections on general seats while the PPP and JI would field their nominees on technocrats and women seats, respectively. All the parties would withdraw candidature of their remaining nominees.

After this decision, Abbas Afridi of PML-N, Hidayatullah Khan of ANP, Maulana Attaur Rahman of JUI-F, Farhatullah Babar of PPP and Inayat Begum of JI would stay in the contest for the five seats. “The chances of the opposition parties to win seats have brightened. If their representatives in the provincial assembly stay firm to their party line, they would be able to secure the desired victory,” a political analyst opined.

Talking to The News, JI’s provincial deputy chief and parliamentary leader in the KP Assembly Inayatullah Khan confirmed that they have made an electoral alliance with the PDM for the Senate polls. He was optimistic about securing victory in the elections. He said the JI didn’t have any better choice than joining hands with the PDM for the Senate polls.

“We wanted to remain part of the political process. We were not in a position to take a solo flight and abstaining from the election, too, was not a better choice,” he argued.

The 145-member KP Assembly would elect 11 senators – seven on general seats, two each on technocrats and women seats and one on minority seat – in the election scheduled to be held on March 3.

The party position in the provincial assembly shows the dominance of the ruling PTI, which has 94 members. It is also poised to win the support of the four members of Balochistan Awami Party (PAB), three independents and the nine “non-aligned” members.

The total number of independent members in the provincial assembly is four, but Amjad Afridi among them recently joined PPP though his brother Abbas Afridi is contesting the polls on general seat on the PML-N ticket.

“The opposition parties have small representation in the house but from a united platform they can do wonders,” said an opposition leader. The total number of JUI-F lawmakers in the provincial assembly is 15, ANP has 12, PML-N seven, PPP six and JI just three. One MPA is affiliated with PML-Q.

Some 19 votes would be required for a contestant to win a general seat, 49 each for victory on two technocrat and women seats and more than 70 on the minority seat. However, if the formula designed for the polls and the priority list for the purpose is strictly adhered to by the opposition parties, they would be able to secure victory on all the seats against which they have fielded their candidates.

Some rich candidates have joined the race and the use of money for making it to the Senate cannot be ruled out. The use of money has always played a leading role in the Senate elections. The ruling PTI is worried about retaining the loyalty of its lawmakers due to which it has been struggling hard for holding the election through an open ballot.

Meanwhile, Amjad Khan Afridi MPA, Senator Shamim Afridi and political workers from five districts announced joining the PPP during PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to Kohat on Saturday.

Addressing a well-attended gathering in Kohat, Bilawal said his party gave identity to the Pakhtuns by renaming NWFP province as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A large number of PPP workers holding party flags and wearing the tri-colour party caps participated in the event. They chanted slogans to eulogise the services of the party leaders for the country and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A huge stage was set up for the rally. About 10,000 to 12,000 chairs were placed at the venue. Around 1,000 cops were deployed to avert any untoward incident.

Welcoming the MPA, the senator and others into the party fold, Bilawal expressed hope that Kohat would again be turned into a stronghold of the PPP.

Enumerating the party achievements, Bilawal said it was the PPP that laid the foundation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to change the destiny of the nation.

Criticising the government, he said this ‘incompetent’ government had undermined the mega project, which was a game-changer for the entire region.

He said the PPP always took steps and launched projects to cater to the needs of the poor.

Bilawal said his late mother Benazir Bhutto Shaheed provided jobs to the have-nots.

“Our government gave 100 percent pay raise to the government employees, but the PTI rulers have stopped paying pension to them,” he remarked.

He said the PPP had protected the rights of the province, but the PTI undermined them. Bilawal said the PTI had caused immense damage to the country’s economy, adding that Pakistan had even lagged behind Bangladesh and Afghanistan in terms of economic growth.

The PPP leader said the PTI government would soon be sent packing as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had launched the struggle to restore true democracy.

He said the PDM component parties would actively take part in the long march towards Islamabad after the Senate election. He said the recent by-elections had unnerved the government, while the Senate election would change the political landscape.

According to Sabah, Bilawal said the PPP will form the next government with the support of the masses and will overcome inflation, provide jobs and bring the country out of the current economic crisis.

Bilawal said the PDM was competing with an incompetent government in every field adding that recently the PDM had defeated the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan by-elections.

He said it had been proved that the people were not supporting PTI but democracy and PDM.

Bilawal said now they were jointly competing the government in the Senate elections and PDM was also giving a tough time to government in the Senate elections adding, ‘we are not only challenging the government in KP, but also in Islamabad.’

He said the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Secretary General Farhatullah Khan Babar was their candidate for technocrat seat from KP and soon Amjad Afridi will get Farhatullah Babar elected from the KP Assembly.

He said the PDM had fielded Yusuf Raza Gilani as its Senate election candidate from Islamabad and the government was very much worried in this regard.

He said they had forced the government to talk to its MNAs MPAs and coalition partners but now it was too late, as they were also in touch with them.

According to Online, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Saturday said they might not be needing to stage the long march after the Senate elections.

Talking to reporters in Lahore, she said the incumbent government was scared of transparent election and despite rigging, it failed to win Daska by-election.

Maryam said an attempt was made to stop the Election Commission’s decision but they could not win Daska election despite rigging.

“If one constituency is opened, then facts will come out in the open because the PTI members are not ready to cast vote in favor of PTI,” she claimed.

According to Online, Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar said the recent by-elections had shown that PTI’s vote bank had increased, as the PML-N previously won Punjab’s Wazirabad seat by 20,000 votes but this time by only 5,000 votes.

Talking to the media at HESCO Colony in Hyderabad, Asad said by now they had become accustomed to the opposition’s propaganda and predictions on when the government will be ousted.

“Despite the repeated claims, we hear every day our allies are standing with us,” he added.

He said the PTI was a democratic party. He said many of their colleagues criticized the party decisions made about the Senate elections but there was a difference between criticizing decisions and criticizing party policy.

He said Haleem Adil Sheikh was arrested just because he stood up to expose the Sindh government.

“The PPP is retaliating not only against the PTI, but also against all its opponents. Its vote bank in Sindh has dwindled and now it only has the vote of fear,” Asad said.

According to APP, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said through a successful strategy, senators were elected unopposed, adding that the PTI will emerge as a leading party in the Senate.

He expressed these views in a ceremony held in honour of PTI senator-elect from Punjab, Aon Abbas Buppi at a local hotel on Saturday.

Provincial ministers and assembly members were also present.

The CM congratulated Buppi for his election unopposed and said the opposition always promoted politics of horse-trading.

He said the nation lauded the steps being taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan for ensuing and upholding transparency.

The opposition used every negative tactic against the government but failed, he added.

“The opposition’s politics of double standard cannot hoodwink people, as the government is making all-out efforts for welfare of the people,” he added.

According to APP, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Saturday said the elders of Hamza Shahbaz and Maryam Nawaz promoted culture of corruption in the country and destroyed the nation’s moral values.

In a tweet, he said those who mercilessly looted and plundered the national exchequer in the past were now stubbornly claiming that no corruption had been proven against them.

He said these elements filled their pockets at the cost of the people of the country.

According to PPI, Shibli expressed serious concerns over the dubious role of the opposition and said it was strange that the opposition benches were opposing open ballot in the Senate elections.

In an interview with a private news channel, he said introducing open ballot system would ensure transparency in the elections. He said the so called-leaders of PML-N and PPP had no political background, while Prime Minister Imran Khan made a long political struggle.