Senate elects chairman amid PTI boycott

In Local
April 09, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Yousuf Raza Gilani is poised to ascend to the coveted Senate chairman position unopposed, thanks to a power-sharing deal with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the upper house holds its first meeting today.

Meanwhile, the main rival, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has decided to sit out of the elections for both chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, scheduled for April 9 (today).

The upper house is set to hold its inaugural session today, during which its newly-elected members will first swear their oaths of office. Following this, they will proceed to elect a new chairman, who in turn will appoint a deputy chairman.

With PTI’s boycott, Gilani, the joint candidate of the ruling coalition, finds himself with a clear path to the Senate throne. This victory would mark Gilani’s ascent to a historic trifecta, having previously held the positions of National Assembly speaker and prime minister, now poised to add Senate chairman to his list of accolades.

Before seizing the reins of government, PML-N and PPPP inked a pact, divvying up key posts in a political barter. Under this arrangement, PPP retained the esteemed offices of the president, the Senate’s chairman, and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, alongside governorships in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In exchange, PML-N secured the coveted offices of prime minister, National Assembly speaker, deputy chairman Senate, and governorships in Sindh and Balochistan. Surprisingly, the party hasn’t yet nominated anyone for the post of the deputy chairman’s office.

However, insiders within PML-N suggest that Anusha Rahman may emerge as the next candidate for the position of deputy chairman of the Senate.

In contrast, a federal minister has voiced uncertainty regarding the identity of the future deputy chairman of the Senate.

Following the elections, PML-N and PPP reached an agreement to support each other during subsequent elections. For instance, Gilani, who initially won a seat from Multan in the general elections, voted for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif before relinquishing his seat to contest the Senate elections from Islamabad.

After Shehbaz Sharif became premier, the PML-N extended its support to Asif Ali Zardari, backing him with their votes for the presidency. This reciprocal support for each other’s candidates was also evident during the elections for the speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

On Monday, PTI decided to boycott the elections of chairman and deputy chairman Senate on the grounds that the house is incomplete as Senate polls were postponed to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the newly-elected lawmakers on reserved seats were not allowed to take the oath.

Although PTI has distanced itself from the elections on key posts in the Senate, the numerical strength of the ruling alliance is more than enough to secure victory even if PTI had decided to contest elections on both positions.

In the house of 96 members, 85 senators have so far been elected as the Election Commission of Pakistan had postponed elections on 11 seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to the non-administration of oaths to members elected on the reserved seats.

On April 2, the results of the Senate elections had revealed that the PML-N-led ruling alliance has a dominating position in the upper house of the parliament with 61 seats, including independents, as opposed to the opposition parties’ 24 seats.

The recent senate poll results showed that the PPPP emerged as the largest party in the Senate with 24 seats followed by PML-N with 19 seats. With three seats each of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Awami National Party (ANP), four seats of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), two of the National Party and one of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), the ruling alliance got total 56 seats.

If five independents, including Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, ex-PM Anwarul Haq Kakar, and Faisal Vawda, support the government then the number of the ruling alliance reaches 61 in the Senate.

Conversely, PTI won only two seats from Punjab in the April 2 Senate elections and with its previous 17 seats, the total number of its seats reached 19. It is expected that PTI can win an additional seven seats when the controversy regarding oath-taking of members on reserved seats is resolved.

Experts said that if PTI gets reserved seats through a legal battle then its seats can increase to nine. Otherwise, they said, PTI will have seven, JUIF can get two, and PML-N and PPPP one each from KP assembly.

Currently, 42 senators are in the house while six members who were recently elected haven’t yet taken oath. Once they take the oath, the total number of the senators previously elected would reach 48.

Elections on 48 seats on April 2, excluding postponement on 11 KP seats, make the total strength of Senate to 96.

The number of total seats of the Senate has reduced from 100 to 96 this time around as four seats of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas merged with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa following a constitutional amendment.

PTI boycott polls

In a statement, PTI took a strong exception to the announcement of the elections for the slots of chairman and deputy chairman of the senate from an incomplete electoral college and decided to boycott the “unconstitutional” polls, demanding to postpone the polls until the house was completed.

PTI Spokesperson said that the elections for the positions of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate without representations from all federating units were unconstitutional and unacceptable. He vowed that PTI would not tolerate the insult of the upper house to select the unelected persons on the constitutional positions of the state from the incomplete electoral college.

PTI spokesperson made it clear that electing the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate in the absence of senators from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would be tantamount to murder of democratic values and traditions. He lamented that the process of violation of the constitution and democratic principles by the unconstitutional government of form-47 continued sans any interval.

PTI Spokesperson said that after the postponement of the Senate election in KP, the election of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate was a continuation of the conspiracy to ambush the public mandate.

He went on to say that keeping KP like an important federating unit out of the electoral process was part of the nefarious and shameful attempts of a biased group to sow the seed of provincial discard and hatred.

PTI spokesperson vowed that they would not accept the chairman and deputy chairman ‘selected’ from an incomplete house come what may.

He urged that the court should take notice of the ongoing attempts to deviate from the constitution to elect a chairman and deputy chairman in the absence of K-P Senators and issued strict orders to defer the polls until the upper house was completed.

PTI spokesperson made it clear that PTI would shield and safeguard the public mandate at every step and would resist any further undemocratic, apolitical and immoral experience in a befitting manner.

Meanwhile, a Senate circular said that the session of the senate is scheduled to be held at 9:00 am on April 9 at Parliament House to administer oaths from the newly elected senators as well as for election of the chairman and deputy chairman senate.

Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari while exercising powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 54 of the Constitution had summoned the Senate to meet at the Parliament building on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed a plea from the PTI seeking a delay in today’s elections for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman positions.

Earlier in the day, five PTI senators submitted the petition, arguing that the current electoral college was incomplete and thus ‘unconstitutional’ due to the absence of Senate polls in K-P.

The party urged the court to postpone the elections until the Senate seats from K-P were filled.
During the hearing, PTI’s counsel, Shoaib Shaheen, suggested that holding the elections after Eid would be preferable. “What harm would there be in postponing the elections until after Eid?” he questioned.

However, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq rejected the request shortly after reserving judgment. The court subsequently issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to provide its response to the petition.

Earlier in the day, the registrar of the IHC had raised objections to the petition filed by the five PTI senators, which sought a court order to delay the elections for Senate chairman and deputy chairman until Senate seats from K-P were filled.

The senators had also requested the court to invalidate the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) April 2, 2024 notification postponing the Senate elections in K-P and issuing an order for conducting the elections in the province.

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