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Monday, February 19, 2024

Will the independent candidates join PML-N after winning?

News Desk |

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah announced on Thursday that the PML-N candidates who were declared independent by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would soon come under PML-N’s fold after winning the Senate elections. He said while speaking outside the Punjab Assembly after the by-elections for the Senate seat vacated by former senator Nehal Hashmi.  He was elected in March 2015 and 3 years were still remaining in his six-year tenure.

The by-elections were contested between PML-N’s candidate Asad Ashraf and PTI’s Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur. Ashraf grabbed 298 votes out of the total 311 seats of the PML-N, all but one of the PML-N candidates voted, out of which 12 were declared invalid. PTI’s candidates managed to win 38 votes even though they have only 30 seats in the Punjab assembly. PPP abstained from voting in the elections.

Read more: PML-N’s ‘interesting’ rule: Have the 2018 elections already been lost?

PTI’s candidate Zarya Suharwardy criticized the ECP for colluding with the PML-N and allowing their candidates to contest as independent candidates. She had also previously filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the nominations of the PML-N candidates for the Senate elections. The LHC sent a notice to ECP to explain their actions as they lack the authority to change the nomination papers of PML-N candidates.

There were wide speculations in the media circles that there was a rift between the PML-N legislators and that PTI was in touch with some members of the Punjab assembly to win a Senate seat from Punjab in the upcoming 3rd March Senate elections but the results of the by-elections have buried all such speculations since all the PML-N legislators voted for their own nominated candidate. However, some political experts believe that the by-elections are not a representative of the general elections.

Reports  suggest that PML-N offered lucrative benefits to its candidates who will join PML-N after winning the elections.

The number of candidates contesting for the Senate elections is much greater in number and the ECP has maintained that the votes will remain anonymous. It is easier for a candidate to vote for an opposing party and not face any backlash for it. Meanwhile, in the by-elections, this element of anonymity did not exist since there were only two candidates contesting in the elections. The speculations that some PML-N legislators will turn on their party are still ripe.

A number of reports have surfaced on the media that PML-N is taking loyalty oaths from its members who are contesting as independent candidates in the Senate elections. A few pictures also surfaced on social media in which PML-N candidates can be visibly seen taking oaths of loyalty. Some reports also suggested that PML-N offered lucrative benefits to its candidates who will join PML-N after winning the elections.

All of these acts still don’t guarantee that the PML-N independent candidates will stay loyal to the party. Some political experts believe that the outcome totally depends on the outcome of the 2018 general elections. The independent candidates are likely to coalesce with the party who wins the general elections. It is speculated that PML-N is likely to win the next elections but if they don’t do so, it might turn out to be a total annihilation of the party from the Parliament.  

The act of declaring PML-N candidates as independent has been considered illegal by many law experts. They believe that the Constitution does not empower the ECP to take decisions on its own and their action is a violation of the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify Nawaz Sharif as the head of PML-N, and to declare all his decisions as party head null and void. The candidates are still members of PML-N so they cannot contest as independent candidates.

Read more: PML-N’s controversial Elections Act challenged in LHC

Furthermore, the decision will promote horse-trading, corruption and defection in the Senate since it is based on proportionate representation. If PML-N candidates who were elected from Punjab join a party who is in majority in some other province, it will curb the rights of Punjab and lower its representation in the Parliament. To prevent these acts, legal experts have suggested that the act of ECP should be declared illegal by the courts.

PML-N’s style of leadership has been greatly criticized for its monarchial style since it claims to be a democratic party. Rather than making decisions with consensus, the decisions of the Sharif family are apparently imposed on the party members. The vigorous loyalty and cult of personality formed around Nawaz Sharif is believed to be very detrimental for democracy in Pakistan. Political experts have criticized the use of words like slavery and devotee by political leaders while referring to their fellow party members.