ISLAMABAD: The nomination of Hafeez Sheikh from Islamabad evinced little interest till former president Asif Ali Zardari picked Yousaf Raza Gilani, a man with considerable political capital, as his contender.
The Senate elections are being held at Parliament House and the respective provincial assemblies today will elect new members of the Upper House after retirement of 50 percent of its total strength.
Zardari is engaged in an extremely proactive campaign which began by launching Gilani as the joint Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate followed by seeking votes from disgruntled members of the ruling party.
Failure to successfully challenge Gilani’s papers led to the ruling party raising the temperature at all possible fora, including the video leak of Gilani’s son Musa Gilani at eleventh hour and also claiming that Gillani’s win could only be possible through money/horse-trading.
In response the opposition benches maintain that Hafeez Sheikh’s economic policies have eroded incomes at a pace never experienced before in Pakistan with many parliamentarians of the ruling party deeply concerned about their re-election bid. If PTI and coalition members vote for Gilani, it would be a conscience vote rather than due to horse-trading, they further contend.
If Sheikh loses, the opposition is considering a vote of no confidence before the prime minister exercises the option of dissolving parliament for no parliamentarian – on the treasury or opposition benches – wants to engage in the expense of mid-term polls. The PML-N senior leadership, particularly Nawaz Sharif who is disqualified for life and his daughter Maryam Nawaz who will be eligible for elections in 2030, want fresh elections but the others may not be so keen.
There is a thin majority of the ruling alliance in the National Assembly with a total strength of 179 MNAs [PTI 157, MQM-P 7, PML-Q 5, GDA 3, BAP 5, AML 1 and JWP 1], which is 21 more than the opposition’s total 158 with PML-N 83, PPP 55, MMA 15, BNP-Mengal 4 and ANP 1. There are also four independent MNAs in the house. Any candidate, who gets more votes from the current 341 member house, will be declared as the winner.
Gilani who is a seasoned politician from Multan and a former prime minister, has personal as well as family ties with many political families in Punjab and Sindh who are in the ruling alliance.
He has strong ties with the family of Pir Pagara who leads Sindh-based Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), a coalition partner of the PTI, both in the center and Sindh. Besides, Gilani also has strong connections with those politicians who were once part of the PPP and later joined the PTI.
The former prime minister is also said to be on good terms with PML-Q, another PTI coalition partner, as Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi served as the deputy prime minister from 25 June 2012 – 16 March 2013 during PPP’s tenure and as Minister for Defence Production and Industries in Giani cabinet.
Polling for the Senate elections will start at the Parliament House Islamabad and the provincial assemblies of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 09:00 am and will continue till 5:00 pm without any break. All Senate candidates from Punjab have been elected unopposed.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 60 candidates are contesting on general seats, 31 on women, 20 on technocrat/ulema seats while 10 candidates are in the field on non-Muslims seats.
From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 25 candidates are in the field for 12 seats, 26 from Balochistan and 17 from Sindh.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021