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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Chairman Senate Election: Is establishment supporting PTI?

The leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) argues that its lawmakers are being “pressurized” not to vote for Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani. The former ruling party has blamed the establishment for allegedly forcing its lawmakers not to follow Nawaz Sharif’s narrative. Is it true?

The leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) argues that its lawmakers are being “pressurized” not to vote for Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, a leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and joint candidate of the Pakistani Democratic Movement for the slot of Chairman Senate. The former ruling party has blamed the establishment for allegedly forcing its lawmakers not to follow Nawaz Sharif’s narrative.

“I want to believe DG ISPR [when he says the army has nothing to do with politics] but our senators have been complaining that they are receiving phone calls,” former prime minister and PML-N senior vice-resident Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said while addressing a press conference along with other party leaders in Islamabad on Thursday.

The stage is set for the contest on the Senate chairman’s slot on March 12 (tomorrow) between incumbent Sadiq Sanjrani, who has been nominated by Prime Minister Imran Khan as the ruling party’s candidate and Yousaf Raza Gilani, the joint candidate of opposition parties – the PDM.

Lamenting the alleged pressure being put on the senators of his party to change their loyalties, Abbasi said that the opposition does not want to blame anyone but senators should be allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Read more: Senate Elections showed we are losing our moral compass, PM Khan

Speaking on the occasion, PML-N Senator Hafiz Abdul Kareem claimed that he received multiple calls on Whatsapp from “unknown callers”. “I got the first call on March 6, the second on March 7 and the third one on March 9… I picked up the last one. The person who was calling requested that I should not vote for Yousuf Raza Gilani [the PDM’s joint candidate for the Senate chairman post] and instead vote for their candidate,” he said.

Kareem added that he told the caller he is with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and will continue to support the PML-N.

The PML-N senator said after the call, he received notice from the anti-corruption department of an old case to put pressure on him. “They are trying to put pressure on me by reopening old cases but no matter how many cases they reopen, I will continue to support Nawaz Sharif and PML-N.”

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also said that he can take the names of those behind the calls but does not want to do so. “We’re not against anyone… we’re only against this mindset and want to run this country as per the Constitution.. if state institutions themselves start to do things against the Constitution then where would one go.”

Hours before, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz also alleged that the party’s senators are being asked to refrain from voting for the PDM candidate in the March 12 election for Senate chairman. “Our senators are being called and asked not to vote for PDM candidate,” Maryam said in a Twitter post. “Some of them have recorded the evidence,” she added.

Interestingly, Yousaf Raza Gillani has confessed that the establishment is “completely neutral”. Recently, in response to a question, Gillani said that it appears as if the establishment is neutral. The former prime minister did not elaborate the context on which he was speaking about.

Daska Election

The ruling party claimed to have won the by-election in NA-75. However, the ECP had last month voided the by-election held in NA-75 on February 19 — which was marred by deadly clashes between workers of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and PML-N, the mysterious disappearance of around 20 presiding officers and suspected tampering with results — and ordered re-polling in the entire constituency on March 18.

A day after the Feb 19 by-poll, the ECP had said it suspected the results of 20 polling stations had been falsified as the PML-N alleged massive rigging. The commission said results from the said polling stations were received with “unnecessary delay”, adding that it tried to contact the presiding officers several times but with no success.

Read more: Ali Haider’s leaked video scandal: PTI MNA Jamil Ahmed Khan submits affidavit before ECP

Similarly, despite having required numbers in the National Assembly, the PTI’s candidate, Hafeez Sheikh, lost the election to the PDM’s Gillani. Despite its all attempts, PTI could not convince the ECP to stop Gillani’s notification as Senator.

Analysts believe that the PDM accepts all those decisions where it appears to be winning but declines to offer any credibility to the institutional i.e. judicial and ECP and public verdicts if they appear to be otherwise.