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• Sanjrani re-elected as Senate chairman, Afridi elected as deputy chairman • Rejection of 7 votes stamped on Gilani’s name causes considerable controversy

SARDAR SIKANDER SHAHEEN

ISLAMABAD: In a major setback to opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the federal government-backed candidates Sadiq Sanjrani and Mirza Muhammad Afridi grabbed the slots of chairman and deputy chairman Senate, by defeating the Yousuf Raza Gilani and Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, respectively.

In the tightly contested chairman Senate election, Sanjrani got re-elected as chairman Senate by grabbing 48 out of the total 98 votes that were cast.

The PDM-backed candidate Gilani received 42 votes. Eight votes were rejected of which seven were cast in Gilani’s favour. Senate has 100 seats but its present strength is 99. Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) remained absent from the session and did not vote. Ishaq Dar of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has not taken oath since his election as senator in March 2018.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) ruling coalition has 47 votes in Senate compared to opposition’s 52 votes.

On March 03, Gilani had defeated PTI’s Dr Haeefz Shaikh by securing 169 votes while Shaikh got 164 votes and seven votes rejected out of total 340 votes cast in 342-member National Assembly. PTI-led coalition has 180 seats compared to 160 seats of opposition in National Assembly.

Senate plunged into chaos after Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah from Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PML-F), the presiding officer for Chairman Senate election, announced that eight votes were rejected. Seven of the rejected votes were cast in favour of Gillani while one vote was cast in favour of both Gilani and Sanjrani.

Gilani’s polling agent Farooq Naek from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) insisted that seven of Gilani’s votes could not be rejected since the voters had affixed the stamps on the name of Gilani but inside the box where the stamp was required to be affixed. He said the instructions for voting displayed by Senate Secretariat inside the Senate Hall did not mention that affixing stamp on the name of a candidate would lead to rejection of vote.

However, Sanjrani’s polling agent Mohsin Aziz from PTI cited the related provisions in the rules of parliamentary business that provided that stamp can be affixed in the box in front of the candidate’s name (and not on the candidate’s name).

After hearing both the sides, the presiding officer declared as rejected the said seven votes. The eighth rejected vote had the stamp affixed on the names of both Sanjrani and Gilani.

“You cannot reject our seven votes just because stamps were affixed on candidate’s name. Nowhere was it mentioned in the instructions issued by Senate Secretariat that voters cannot affix stamps on the names of contesting candidates,” Naek said to the presiding officer.

“I am going to issue a ruling (to reject these votes). If you have any objection over my ruling, you can go to the election tribunal,” Shah replied.

After Sanjrani was announced winner, he took oath and presided over the deputy chairman’s election.

Afridi bagged 54 votes compared to Haideri’s 44 votes. No vote was rejected and 98 votes were cast. Thereafter, Afridi took oath as deputy chairman Senate.

Before the election of chairman and deputy chairman, the Senate met on Friday morning for the oath-taking of 48 newly-elected senators.

Originally, 52 senators were scheduled to retire on March 11. Out of them, 49 senators completed their term on Thursday. Two senators - Sitara Ayaz and Ashok Kumar—tendered resignations and Mushahid Ullah Khan passed away last month.

Senate elections were scheduled on 48 seats on March 3. Out of these seats, senators on all the 11 Punjab seats were elected unopposed and elections on remaining 37 seats were held.

Following FATA’s merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, four erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) seats stood abolished in recently held Senate elections with the retirement of four senators while as many seats would be abolished in Senate elections in 2024 with the retirement of remaining four senators elected on erstwhile FATA seats. After the abolition of eight erstwhile FATA seats, the number of Senate seats would be reduced to 96 with 48 senators retiring every three years. Due to abolition of four FATA seats in recent elections, the Senate’s current strength has been reduced to 100 seats. Senate polls were held on 12 seats each of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, 11 seats of Sindh and two seats of Islamabad.

In each province, the elections were held on seven General seats, two Women seats and two Technocrats/Ulema seats. In KP and Balochistan, elections were held on one seat each for non-Muslims. Elections on the remaining two Non-Muslims seats; one each of Punjab and Sindh, would be held in 2024.

Each province has 23 seats—14 general seats, four Women seats, four Technocrats/Ulema seats and one Non-Muslim seat. Erstwhile FATA has eight General seats and Islamabad has four seats—two General and two Women.

Half of the Senate membership retires every three years after completing its term.

Senators including Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla, Leader of the Opposition Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, Sherry Rehman, Sirajul Haq, Rehman Malik, Ayesha Raza Farooq, Mohsin Aziz, Liaqat Tarakai, Zeeshan Khanzada, Atta Ur Rehman, Chaudhry Tanvir, Farooq Naek, Manzoor Ahmed Kakar, Sarfraz Bugti, Khushbakht Shujaat, Ateeq Sheikh, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Muhammad Ali Saif, Javed Abbasi, Usman Kakar, Pervaiz Rasheed and Sajid Mir were among senators who retired on Thursday.

Out of them, Mandviwalla, Faraz, Sherry, Mir, Naek, Bugti, Khanzada, Atta Ur Rehman, Aziz, Tarakai, Manzoor Kakar and Haideri are among those re-elected as senators for fresh six-year term.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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