Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday chaired a meeting of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) parliamentary board to finalize names of candidates for upcoming Senate elections scheduled on March 3.
Sources claim that the ruling party’s parliamentary board has finalized names of the candidates to be awarded tickets for Senate polls and has sent recommendations to Prime Minister Imran Khan. The parliamentary board of PTI has suggested that Shibli Faraz, Sania Nishtar, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Dr Zarka be awarded Senate tickets.
Name of Federal Minister for Finance Hafeez Sheikh has been shortlisted on technocrat seats, according to sources. The name of PML-Q leader Kamil Ali Agha from coalition parties has also been finalised.
Speaking to PTI’s parliamentary board members, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that PTI will end the tradition of awarding tickets to feudalists and capitalists. The final approval will be given by the prime minister.
The meeting was attended by three governors and chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
On Feb 1, the PTI formed an 11-member parliamentary board headed by PM Khan for award of tickets. The board comprises Shafqat Mehmood, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar, Usman Buzdar, Mehmood Khan and Aamir Kiyani,
Three governors Imran Ismail, Shah Farman and Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar are also included in the parliamentary board. Earlier in the day, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued the schedule for the Senate elections in the four provinces.
According to the top electoral body, the polling to elect legislators for the upper house of the parliament will be held on March 3.
As per the schedule released by the ECP, public notice inviting nomination papers will be issued by the Returning Officers on February 11. The ECP will accept submission of the nomination papers on February 12 and 13.
PTI to emerge as the winning party?
A total of 52 senators in the house of 104 are set to retire on March 11 on completion of their six-year term. They will also include four of the eight senators from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). As the seats representing Fata will not be filled due to the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018, the Senate strength will shrink to 100.
Therefore, polling will be held to elect 48 senators — 12 each from KP and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad. Polling will be held to elect seven members on general seats, two women and two technocrats in the four provinces. Besides, the election on one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.
Over 65 per cent of the senators who are set to retire on March 11 after completing their six-year constitutional term belong to the opposition parties.
While the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf senators may double in numbers after the electoral exercise to reach 28 from existing 14, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is likely to be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as 17 of its 29 senators will retire next month and the party would be able to retain just five, taking the total strength to 17.
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s strength in the house will slightly come down from 21 to 19. Among the allies of the ruling party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement will be the only loser, with its party’s strength slipping down from five to three, while another ally, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), will emerge stronger, with the number of its senators growing from 10 to 13.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, opines that “if the Senate election takes place in March 2021 as scheduled, the PTI is likely to emerge as the largest party in the house, displacing the PML-N from that position”.
It is, however, important to note that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has announced to resign from the assemblies. PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is one of the parties rallying against the government. Syed Murad Shah, Chief Minister Sindh, may advise the dissolution of the assembly shortly ahead of the Senate election in March 2021 which may keep an entire province out of the election.
Mehboob writes that “in case this happens, it will be the first time that a province skips the Senate election cycle”. “Since there is no clear and explicit provision in the Constitution and the Elections Act regarding such a situation, the matter may end up in a court of law for resolution and interpretation of the Constitution,” he continued.
“This may become necessary also because fresh election of the chair and deputy chair of the Senate has to take place immediately after the March 2021 election and the absence of half the representation of a province may significantly impact the outcome of these elections,” he concluded.