Senate Elections 2021

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Syed Tahir Rashdi
Barring the federal setback, Wednesday’s Senate elections didn’t spring any major surprise as the ruling PTI dethroned its political arch-nemesis, the PML-N, as the single largest party in the upper house of parliament. This was what political pundits had predicted based on the governing party’s numerical strength in the four provincial assemblies.The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – the alliance of a dozen opposition parties – pulled off a spectacular upset in Wednesday’s Senate elections which eclipsed the gains made by the governing party in the four federating units. The high-stakes contest for one of the two federal capital seats carried huge symbolic value as the opposition believed its victory here would mean the prime minister doesn’t command confidence of the house. Lawmakers in the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa voted to elect 37 senators. Punjab had already returned 11 senators unopposed as a result of a rare consensus among the government and the opposition there. In all, 48 senators have been elected to replace the retiring members of the upper house of parliament. Hours before lawmakers across the country were set to go to polls in the much-anticipated Senate elections 2021, a video surfaced on Tuesday showing the son of Yousuf Raza Gilani, the joint opposition’s most prominent candidate for the polls, explaining to lawmakers how to cancel their votes. The government immediately cried foul, demanding that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declare Gilani ineligible after the emergence of the video that it said showed “votes being bought”. It also filed a reference with the ECP seeking Gilani’s disqualification for being involved in “corrupt practices”. PPP leader and former prime minister Gilani, who hails from Multan, has been fielded as a joint candidate of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement from Islamabad. His lone competition for the general seat will be Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh of the PTI. In the night-time video of about one-and-a-half minutes, first shared by ARY News, Gilani’s son Ali Haider Gilani can be heard apparently    explaining through specific details to at least two lawmakers how they can waste their votes during the election. Members of the PPP celebrated Yousuf Raza Gilani’s win in the Senate elections over PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, while the government decried the win and said it would be investigated. In a blow to the government, the joint opposition candidate Gilani won the hotly contested general seat from Islamabad, beating Shaikh. Gilani secured 169 votes while Shaikh bagged 164 votes. Prime Minister Imran Khan will seek a vote of confidence from the parliament after the ruling PTI lost the hotly contested Senate general seat from Islamabad to the joint opposition, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has announced. Addressing a press conference hours after the PTI’s upset loss was confirmed, Qureshi said it should be made clear who stood where after today’s vote. “Those standing with Imran Khan will be seen on one side and those who are not, and think they like the ideology of the PPP and PML-N have every right to join their ranks,” said Qureshi, who was flanked by several PTI ministers including Asad Umar, Shireen Mazari, Shafqat Mehmood and Fawad Chaudhry. He urged PTI workers to hold onto the belief that the PTI would compete with the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). “They have united but have no ideological basis for their union. They do politics of self-interest …. and want to continue with such politics but we will bury it,” he said.