ISLAMABAD: Unlike March 2021, the Senate elections, this time around, did not spring any surprise on the federal capital seat - with Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar having secured his slot in the Upper House of Parliament, defeating Raja Ansar Mehmood from Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) on Tuesday - but the elections ignited a controversy stemming from the electoral body’s decision to postpone the polls on all the 11 seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in connection with reserved seats oath dispute.

Dar, the candidate of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on technocrat’s seat, received 222 votes against Mehmood, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed SIC candidate who bagged 81 votes.

Another Islamabad’s seat went to Rana Mehmoodul Hassan, the candidate of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). He got 224 votes against SIC’s Farzand Hussain Shah who received 79 votes.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were among the noted politicians who voted in the Senate elections. In March 2021 Senate elections, that were held on 37 of the 48 seats, due to unopposed election of senators on all 11 seats of Punjab, PPP’s Yousaf Raza Gilani had defeated the then Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh.

Notably, Imran Khan was the PM at that time, and younger Sharif, the incumbent PM, was incarcerated. Presently, the latter is the PM and the former remains incarcerated. Sharif had voted in March 2021 Senate election after his production order was issued by the then Speaker NA Asad Qaiser.

Apart from that, in less than three weeks, Senate elections have been held on three Islamabad seats—including March 14 by-election in which Gilani had won Islamabad’s general seat against SIC’s Chaudhry Ilyas Mehrban.

Of the 48 Senate seats on which the Senate elections were originally scheduled, the candidates on 18 seats; all the 11 seats of Balochistan Assembly and seven seats of Punjab Assembly, were elected unopposed, last week.

Resultantly, the elections were scheduled on 30 Senate seats; five seats of Punjab, 12 seats of Sindh, 11 seats of KP and two seats of Islamabad.

Of them, two women and technocrats seats each, and one minorities seat of Punjab, seven general seats, two women and technocrats seats each, and one minorities seat of Sindh, seven general seats, two women and technocrats seats each of KP, and a general and technocrat seats each of Islamabad, were scheduled to have polls.

As many as 59 candidates were in run for the polls on 30 seats. However, after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued an allegedly controversial order to postpone the Senate elections on Tuesday on all the 11 KPA seats, the polls were finally held on 19 seats; eight general seats (seven seats of Sindh Assembly and one NA seat), five technocrats seats (two seats each of PA and SA and one NA seat), four women seats (two seats each of PA and SA) and two minorities seats of PA and SA each. Some 33 candidates were in contest for the 19 seats.

The ECP cited the non-administering of oath on part of the speaker KPA to the members elected on reserved seats— to postpone the polls as a reason to postpone the polls.

The decision attracted strong backlash from different political and public circles keeping in view that SIC’s Presidential candidate Mehmood Khan Achakzai had written to Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja ahead of March 9 presidential poll that this election be postponed given that there were some reserved seats in the Assemblies, which were still vacant then. However, the ECP turned down his request and proceeded with the presidential election that Asif Ali Zardari won.

On March 11, 52 senators stood retired, rendering the Senate dysfunctional, following the completion of their six-year terms. The retiring senators included those from mainstream political parties including 13 from PPP, 11 from PML-N and seven from PTI.

Previously, the Senate had 104 seats which are being reduced phase-wise to 96 seats—with four Senate seats abolished in 2021 Senate elections—reducing the Senate’s strength to 100 seats— and four seats being abolished in the upcoming Senate elections— in accordance with 25th Amendment that envisages abolition of eight seats of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Senate due to FATA’s merger into KP.

Half of the total membership of Senate retires every three years.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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