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ISLAMABAD: In a crushing disappointment to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, on Wednesday, emerged victorious by defeating his rival Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the federal finance minister, by five votes – 169/164 as seven votes were rejected under highly suspicious circumstances – in Senate elections.

Although Senate elections were held on 37 seats in Islamabad, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, but all eyes were on the general seat from the federal capital, which finally went to Gilani.

The “surprise victory” by the PDM candidate who defeated Dr Sheikh came as a “shock” to the ruling PTI as Fauzia Arshad – the PTI candidate from Islamabad on seats reserved for women – stole the show with 174 votes, defeating Farzana Kausar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who bagged 161 votes.

A total of five votes were rejected on women seat.

Both Gilani and Sheikh kept sitting next to each other during the vote count by the Election Commission (ECP) officials.

After Gilani was declared the winner, Dr Shaikh patted on his shoulder and congratulated him, and Gilani reciprocated with a warm hug.

Soon after the results were announced, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari tweeted: “Democracy is the best revenge. Jeay Bhutto!”

Former PM Nawaz Sharif tweeted, “My sincerest felicitations to Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani on his glorious victory in the Senate elections.”

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz also congratulated Gilani and described it as a victory of the PDM and asked Prime Minister Khan to quit. “Thanks to Allah Almighty who gave victory to the PDM. The “fake” mandate was snatched back by the people's representatives. Despite pressure, his [Imran Khan] own lawmakers refused to vote for the thieves of sugar, flour and electricity. Now you’ve no justification to remain further in the PM House, and [should] quit,” she tweeted.

The timings of the elections were from 9am to 5pm but all the members along with Prime Minister Imran Khan cast their votes by 2pm.

But the ECP had to wait for Maulana Abdul Akber Chitrali – the lone MNA of Jamaat-e-Islami – but he did not turn up to cast his vote till 5pm.

Out of total 342 votes, 340 votes were cast, excluding NA-75 Daska (Sialkot) and Maulana Chitrali’s.

In total, 48 seats were up for grabs, but elections were only conducted on 37 seats, as all 11 candidates from Punjab were elected unopposed due to an agreement between the PTI, the PML-Q and the PML-N, after the Chaudhrys of Gujrat played their “trump card”.

The incarcerated opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, PPP’s Khusheed Shah, PML-N parliamentary leader in National Assembly Khawaja Asif, and Pashtoon Tahafuz Movement’s (PTM’s) Ali Wazir also cast their votes as the NA Speaker had issued their production orders, a day ago.

The PPP diehards who were wandering inside the parliament chanted anti-government slogans, when PM Khan entered the House to cast his vote.

In a tit for tat, the PTI supporters shouted anti-PML-N slogans when Shehbaz Sharif and other jailed PML-N leaders came to the House to cast their votes.

Faisal Vawda, a close aide of the prime minister, who was elected senator from Sindh, tendered his resignation to NA speaker moments after casting his vote in the National Assembly.

According to sources, the defeat of Dr Shaikh attracted the anger of the prime minister, who sought report to ascertain the reason behind the defeat at Islamabad’s all important seat, despite two days long canvassing by none other than the prime minister himself.

Prime Minister Khan was particularly upset at Shehryar Afridi, chairman Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, after his vote was wasted, when he mistakenly signed the ballot paper. “You [Afridi) are a member of the House…was it just a blunder or something else,” the sources privy to the development quoted the prime minister as saying.

"Everyone was informed about the voting procedure beforehand, but I don’t know how you can make such a blunder,’ said a visibly perturbed PM.

The sources said the prime minister was not satisfied with the explanation given by Afridi, which might cost him dearly.

Afridi had written to the presiding officer, requesting to allow him to recast his vote, but it was turned down.

“It is submitted that I have been feeling unwell for the past few days and couldn't attend the meetings of the party for preparations of elections," he said.

The PTI leader said when he arrived at the parliament, the ECP staff failed to guide him.

“I requested the polling staff but they failed to guide me. Later, I put my signature on the ballot papers instead of putting numbers. Therefore, I may be allowed to recast my vote," he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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