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PML-N and PPP fight for the Senate Chairmanship

Chairmanship
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News Analysis |

Political parties are locking horns to win the coveted senate chairmanship. The chairman hopefuls have upped their efforts to convince the legislators to vote for them. Political temperature is on the rise once again as the political parties scramble to device strategies to make much needed alliances ahead of the elections for senate chairman and deputy chairman.

After winning the 3rd March elections, ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) seems to be in a favorable position to take up the position of senate with the support of its allies. The closest competitor for PML-N is Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which is relying heavily on the other parties and independent senators. After winning the overwhelming and unexpected number of seats, it is hoping to install its own chairman in the senate.

Though, independent candidates are going to play a key role here, nevertheless, a group of 15 independents which includes seven from Balochistan and eight from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are expected to play a significant role in the coming elections.

It makes the decision of the independent candidates crucial. However, it is not guaranteed that MQM-P and PTI will support PPP, especially, if incumbent chairman Raza Rabbani is not nominated for the position. In such case, the victory of PML-N will be obvious.

Both PML-N and PPP are in contact with the independent senators from Balochistan and FATA who can change the course of the chairman elections. Raja Zafarul Haq and Pervaiz Rasheed are considered strong candidates from PML-N, while from PPP outgoing senate chairman Raza Rabbani, Salim Mandviwala and Sherry Rehman are favorable candidates for the chairmanship.

PML-N and PPP are both convinced to gain the loyalties of independent Baloch senators, however a demand has emerged that the next senate chairman should be from Balochistan. While speaking with the media, Senator Sadiq Sanjrani put forth the demand that the next chairman should be from Balochistan province asserting that his political group would consult with all senators from the province for the cause.

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PPP sent a delegation on the 4th of March comprising of Faisal Karim Kundi and Dr. Qayyum Soomro to meet the Baloch senators, amid claims from the leader of the opposition that PPP is confident of installing its chairman in the senate. Chairman of PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Kurshid Shaha and Dr. Qayyum Soomro are vouching for the next senate chairman to be from PPP.

PPP delegation has claimed to have assured the support of all the independent senators from Balochistan.

On the contrary, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) backed Chief Minister Baluchistan Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said that their doors are open to all parties and that they do not have any conflict with any party. In the larger interest of their province, they are ready to talk with all major political parties. Though, Bizenjo downplayed accusation of horse trading, but given the situation, it is hard to agree with his statement and think otherwise.

The closest competitor for PML-N is Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which is relying heavily on the other parties and independent senators. After winning the overwhelming and unexpected number of seats, it is hoping to install its own chairman in the senate.

Finally, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has evolved as the third largest party in the senate. It has become capable of pulling the strings which can be crucial for both the PPP and the PML-N.  The results may have put PTI in an interesting position, but, given the PTI stances on both the parties, it looks near to impossible that PTI will support any of leading candidates for senate candidates from PPP and PML-N. Imran Khan has been a vocal opponent of both parties and will almost certainly not support their candidates, which may favor PML-N indirectly. 

As the situation holds, PML-N and its allies, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), National Party (NP) and PML-Functional (PML-F) will have 48 members in the new Senate, while on the other hand PPP and the remaining opposition parties will have 40 members.

Read more: Question of overseas voting back in the supreme court of Pakistan

It makes the decision of the independent candidates crucial. However, it is not guaranteed that MQM-P and PTI will support PPP, especially, if incumbent chairman Raza Rabbani is not nominated for the position. In such case, the victory of PML-N will be obvious. That is if it manages to woe the MQM-P and few independent senators and successfully crosses the required 60 seats to crown its senate chairman and deputy chairman.

As of today, both PML-N and PPP have claimed to have the votes to win the elections, but given the emerging situation and political realities, it seems more likely that PML-N backed candidate will win the chairmanship in upcoming polls.


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