The Senate elections are underway in the national and provincial assemblies as 133 candidates contest for 52 seats on Saturday.
The Senate — the Upper House of parliament — is a body of 104 lawmakers. Each serves a term of six years, barring resignation, disqualification, or other extraordinary circumstances. They are not all elected at the same time: rather, half are elected at one time, and the other half three years later.
In 2018, 52 senators (who were elected in 2012) are slated to retire. The other 52 were elected in 2015 and will retire in 2021. Of the 52 Senate seats being vacated for election today, 46 will be filled by the four provincial assemblies, 2 by the National Assembly, and 4 by lawmakers representing Fata.
Of all the candidates in the running, 20 are looking to secure one of 12 seats from Punjab, 33 are contesting for 12 seats from Sindh, 26 for 11 seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 25 for 11 seats from Balochistan, 24 for four seats from Fata and five for two seats from the federal capital.
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq cast the first vote in the elections while Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi arrived in the assembly to cast his ballot around noon.
On the other hand, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has chosen not to take part in the election activities. Khan will not visit the parliament house today, the PTI secretariat confirmed.
‘Whoever will abandon Nawaz today will destroy their own political career’
While addressing the media on Saturday, State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “Everyone will see that Nawaz will be the winner today,”
While answering a question regarding possible defection by PML-N ministers, Aurangzeb said: “We have witnessed that each time someone chose to turn their backs on Nawaz, they destroyed their own political careers. If anyone chose to do so today, they will have the same fate.”
PML-N leader Zaeem Qadri, while speaking to the media outside the parliament, said that members of the party would prove that Nawaz Sharif does not need a title to run the party. “Every member of PML-N is Nawaz Sharif’s soldier, they will all vote for the candidates that Nawaz has chosen for the party.”
“God has bestowed leadership skills on Nawaz, and he has been given the skills to be and remain the king and the kingmaker,” Qadri said while referring comments made by the chief justice in yesterday’s SC Judgement in Election Amendment Act 2017 case.
Speaking to reporters outside the Sindh Assembly, MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar said that while his party yesterday claimed that they would win all four seats from Sindh, today he would be cautious and say that they are trying to win all four seats.
Touching upon the internal conflict in MQM-P, Sattar said, “We have resolved the symptom by agreeing on [the nominees for] the Senate elections, we will sit together on March 5 and resolve the actual condition that was manifested through the symptoms.”
According to a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Rangers and Frontier Corps personnel have been deployed outside all the polling stations established in parliament house and the four provincial assemblies, while returning officers have been given magisterial power during the polling process which will continue from 9am till 4pm without a break.
Media personnel have been barred from entering the provincial assemblies as well as the parliament building as part of the security arrangements.
No person entering the assembly premises is allowed to carry their cellphones or any other electronic devices with them.
The Senate election is held through secret voting on a basis of single transferable vote through “preference voting”. All four provincial assemblies are electoral colleges for the four respective assemblies.
The main halls of all provincial assemblies have been declared polling stations for the respective provinces and while separate polling stations have been formed in the National Assembly for the election of senators from Fata and Islamabad.
According to the ECP, 1,600 ballot papers for Punjab, 800 for Sindh, 600 for KP, 300 for Balochistan, 800 for Islamabad and 50 for Fata have been printed and handed over to the respective returning officers.
The new senators will take oath on March 12.
Punjab (46 votes* elect a senator)
There are 371 total seats in Punjab Assembly; however, only 367 are currently occupied. Of these, 309 are occupied by members of the PML-N, 30 by PTI members, eight each by PPP and PML-Q members, five by independent lawmakers, three by members of PML-Zia, and one each by a member of Pakistan National Muslim League, Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and the Bahawalpur National Party.
Sindh (21 votes* elect a senator)
The total seats in Sindh are 168, but there are currently only 167 lawmakers occupying them. Currently, 95 of them are members of the PPP, 50 are members of MQM, nine are lawmakers representing PML-F, nine PML-N, four PTI, one National Peoples Party and one is an independent lawmaker.
KP (16 votes* elect a senator)
The total seats in the KP Assembly are 124, but there are 123 lawmakers currently in office. Sixty one are members of the PTI, 16 are members of PML-N, 16 of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, 10 of Qaumi Watan Party, seven of Jamaat-i-Islami, six of PPP, five of the Awami National party and two are independent members.
Balochistan (9 votes* elect a senator)
The total number of seats and lawmakers in the Balochistan Assembly is 65. Of these, 21 are PML-N members, 14 PkMAP members, five PML-Q, eight JUI-F, 11 National Party, two from the BNP, a lawmaker each from the MWM, the ANP and the BNP-A, and one independent member.
Federal (114 votes* elect a senator)
At present, the National Assembly has 342 seats for lawmakers from across the country. It currently comprises 340 members.
The treasury benches are occupied by 221 members: the PML-N enjoys a majority with 187 members, while its allied JUI-F contributes another 14. The PML-F adds another five, PkMAP three, National People’s Party two, and PML-Zia and the National Party have one lawmaker each on the benches.
There are 119 lawmakers on the opposition benches, of which 47 belong to the PPP, 33 to PTI, 24 to the MQM, four each to the Jamaat-i-Islami and PML-Q, two to the ANP, and one each to APML and QWP. Three independent lawmakers are also part of the opposition.
The chart below shows how many votes are needed from each assembly to be successfully elected to a Senate General seat, assuming all lawmakers turn up to vote.
Prominent among those contesting polls from Punjab against the seven general seats from Punjab include former Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on a PTI ticket, Kamil Ali Agha (PML-Q) and PML-N-backed Asif Kirmani, Musadik Malik, Haroon Akhtar Khan and Rana Mehmoodul Hassan. PML-N-backed independent candidates for the two seats reserved for women are Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi’s sister Saadia Abbasi and Nuzhat Sadiq. The PTI has fielded Andaleeb Abbas for women seat from Punjab.
The three PML-N-backed independent candidates in the run for two technocrat seats include former finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar.
Prominent candidates from Sindh include sitting Senate chairman Raza Rabbani, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Maula Bux Chandio, Murtaza Wahab, Kamran Tessori, Ahmad Chinoy, Anis Ahmad Qaimkhani and Farogh Naseem.
From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, former chief minister Pir Sabir Shah, Ali Afzal Khan Jadoon (backed by the PML-N), Faisal Sakhi Butt (PPP) Talha Mehmood (JUI-F), Maulana Samiul Haq, Azam Swati, Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli, Rubina Khalid and Naeema Kishwar are amongst the prominent candidates.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed and Asad Junejo and former prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s brother Raja Imran Ashraf are prominent among those in the run.