Coalition shy of two-thirds majority in Senate as it clinches 19 seats

Azeem Samar & Faizan Bangash & Mumtaz Alvi
Wednesday, Apr 03, 2024

KARACHI/ LAHORE/ ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party secured 10 seats, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan one seat and one independent candidate, Faisal Vawda, also emerged victorious in the Senate election on 12 vacant seats from Sindh.

At the same time, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz won all the five seats from Punjab in the Senate elections, while the ECP postponed the KP Senate elections due to non-administration of oath to MPAs-elected on reserved seats.

Nine lawmakers of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), who are Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed legislators, and the lone MPA of Jamaat-e-Islami stayed away from the polling held in the Sindh Assembly hall. The polling was held from 9 am to 4 pm without any break.

The total number of voters in the Senate elections from Sindh was 164. Out of these 164 voters, 154 legislators took part in the polls. Only one vote was declared invalid in the elections. The turnaround remained at 93.9 per cent in the polls. A total of 19 candidates were in the field contesting polls for these 12 Senate seats. Due to the boycott of polling by the opposition legislators belonging to the SIC and JI, the candidates belonging to PPP, MQM Pakistan and, independent contender Vawda secured an easy win. Vawda secured the victory after polling votes both from the legislators belonging to the PPP and MQM Pakistan. The six contesting candidates backed by the PTI didn’t get any votes.

The five PPP candidates who won the elections against the general seats in the Senate include Ashraf Ali Jatoi having 22 votes, Dost Ali Jeesar securing 23 votes, Syed Kazim Ali Shah with 22 votes, Syed Masroor Ahsan securing 23 and Nadeem Ahmed Bhutto bagged 21 votes. PPP’s candidates Rubina Qaimkhani, securing 58 votes and Qurat-ul-Ain Marri, having 59 votes, secured the two seats reserved for women in the Senate from Sindh. PPP’s candidates Sarmad Ali, securing 58 votes and Zamir Hussain Ghumro, bagging 59 votes, secured the two seats reserved for technocrats in Sindh. PPP’s candidate Poonjo Bheel secured one seat reserved for minorities in the Senate from Sindh with 117 votes. The candidate of MQM Pakistan, Amir Waliuddin Chishti, bagging 21 votes, also secured a general seat in the Senate. Faisal Vawda with 21 votes also secured a general seat in the Senate.

In the case of Punjab, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz won all the five seats in the Senate elections. Polling was held in the Punjab Assembly for five seats of Senate, including two for technocrats, two for women and one for minorities and PMLN won all of them comfortably while defeating the candidates of Sunni Ittehad Council. The newly elected senators of PMLN for these seats are Muhammad Aurangzeb, Musaddiq Malik, Anusha Rehman, Bushra Anjum Butt and Khalil Tahir Sindhu. Sunni Ittehad Council-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid contesting for the technocrat seat could not win. Sanam Javaid of SIC was also contesting for women’s seat whereas Asif Ashiq was the candidate for the seat for minorities.

It is pertinent to mention that out of the total 12 seats of Senate which were to be filled through elections, PMLN has emerged as the major shareholder grabbing 10 out of total 12. The two opposition candidates who were elected include Hamid Khan and Raja Nasir Abbas. The polling process for the Punjab Senate seats continued between 9 am to 4 pm and Bilal Yasmin Satti of PMLN was the first member to cast his vote.

Punjab Assembly was the polling station for the Punjab Senate elections and a total 356 MPAs cast their votes, including the Chief Minister Punjab Maryam Nawaz and Speaker PA Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan. PMLN candidates for technocrat seats Muhammad Aurangzeb and Musaddiq Malik got 128 and 121 votes respectively. For women seats, Anusha Rehman got 125 and Bushra Anjum Butt got 123 votes. Khalil Tahir Sindhu of PMLN got 253 votes as the candidate for minorities seat and his opponent Asif Ashiq bagged 99 votes. Provincial Election Commissioner Punjab and the Returning Office Ejaz Anwar Chohan announced the results.

In a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan issued an order to postpone the Senate elections to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s 11 seats on account of the non-administration of oath to the MPAs-elect on reserved seats.

The two-page order, carrying signatures of all the five members, including the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, also referred to its earlier order of March 1, 2024 in relation to the Sunni Ittehad Council’s request for allocation of reserved seats. The order reads, “…the Speaker Provincial Assembly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was approached by the notified members of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for the reserved seats for administration of oath to them, however, no arrangement for oath was made.” It explained that the Returning Officer for Senate election to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has informed vide letter No. F.1(26)/2024-Els (PEC) dated 2nd April 2024 along with written request of the elected and notified members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly against the reserved seats that the Speaker Provincial Assembly has not arranged oath. “…the Commission is of the considered view that the standards of honesty, justness and fairness of election as provided in Article 218(3) of the Constitution cannot be fulfilled due to non-administration of oath to elected members and which amounts to disenfranchisement of lawful voters and denial of level playing field to the voters. Thus, the Electoral College is incomplete for the purpose of Senate elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.”

The order said the commission in exercise of powers under Article 218(3) of the Constitution read with Section 4(1), Section 8(c) and Section 128 of the Elections Act, 2017 and all other enabling provisions of the Constitution and law in this behalf, postpones the poll to the Senate Election to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa till the administration of oath to the elected members against the reserved seats and accordingly makes necessary amendment in the notification issued under Section 107 of the Act. Office is directed to take follow up action.

Later, the Election Commission issued a notification, which said in pursuance of the Order dated 2nd April, 2024 passed by the Election Commission of Pakistan and in partial modification to this Commission’s Notification No. F.No.3(1)/2024- Coord.(M/F) dated 14th March, 2024, the Election Commission of Pakistan hereby postpones the poll date for Senate Election-2024 to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, till further orders.

With Tuesday’s victories in the Senate election, the ruling coalition secured all the 19 seats, moving closer to getting a two-thirds majority in the 96-member House. Besides they already have a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly which would allow the ruling coalition to successfully pass any constitutional amendment through a joint sitting of parliament.

The PMLN led ruling coalition has a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, whereas its total strength in the Senate has reached 59. However, unlike its status as the single largest party in the assembly, PMLN is behind PPP in the Senate which, for now, has emerged as the leading party with 24 senators.

Obviously, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf already having 20 members in the House, will be looking for early election to 11 vacant seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from where it can get at least 6-7 seats. PMLN has now 19 members in the House.

Similarly, independents also boost the ruling coalition’s numerical strength in the House, who have been elected by virtue of mutual understanding and seat adjustment. Independents include former caretaker PM Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, Fesal Vawda and Naseema Ehsan.

Warm welcome was accorded to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari upon their entry into the National Assembly hall to cast their votes. Members thumped desks to greet them. PMLN MNA Saad Wasim was the first member in the National Assembly to poll his vote. Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, a candidate of PMLN, was elected senator on the technocrat seat defeating Raja Ansar of the Sunni Ittehad Council while PPP’s Rana Mahmoodul Hasan was also elected senator against a general seat from the federal capital, defeating his opponent, Farzand Hussain of the Sunni Ittehad Council.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson denounced the postponement of Senate polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, alleging it was continuation of the same ‘shameful mandate theft plot’ to disturb the PTI’s position in the Upper House. He rejected the ECP decision, which would be challenged in the court.

In a statement, PTI spokesperson alleged that chief election commissioner was the main character in what he charged as the daylight poll robbery. He said that the postponement was the continuation of the same disgraceful scheme under which people’s mandate was stolen under the state patronage.