The Senate elections 2018
Mohammad Jamil
4/3/2018

 

The Senate of Pakistan has elected the opposition-backed candidates Sadiq Sanjrani and Saleem Mandviwala as its Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively. Sanjrani bagged 57 votes against 46 by Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N. Later, in the polling to elect Deputy Chairman of the Senate, Saleem Mandviwala emerged victorious with 54 votes against 44 bagged by Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supported Sanjrani and Mandviwala.

Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Nasir administrated the oath to the new elected Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani. Despite being the majority party in the Senate with 33 seats and its allies with 24 seats PML-N lost the top slots of the Senate. In fact, PPP and the PTI leaders kept the ruling party and its allies guessing, as PTI till two days before the elections had ruled out the possibility to support the PPP candidate for deputy chairmanship.

National Party (NP) chief Hasil Bizenjo in his speech after the election of the new chairman and deputy chairman of the house said: “The parliament has been completely defeated. It has been proved today that some forces are supreme than the parliament. Today, I am ashamed to sit here”. He also blasted the opposition for terming the chairman’s election as a victory from Balochistan, saying the parties turned Balochistan assembly into a “market”. Before him, former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani took the floor and said that he would continue to fight for the supremacy of the parliament on the floor and outside the house, if need be. In fact, the strategy of the ruling party and its allies failed. PML-N had offered to support Raza Rabbani if nominated by the PPP, which Asif Ali Zardari declined considering it an effort to divide the opposition.

There is hardly any discussion held to find solutions to improve the lives of teeming millions living in abject poverty. Promises made during the election campaigns are forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed

Imran Khan had, of course, played a masterstroke by suggesting that Senate chairman should be from Balochistan, which forced Asif Ali Zardari to nominate Sadiq Sanjrani. If PPP had fielded its candidate for the chairmanship, PML-N candidates would have won by a considerable margin. Earlier, the result of 52 senators’ election was a foregone conclusion, as except a couple of surprises — Chaudhry Sarwar Khan clinching seat from Punjab Assembly bagging highest votes and MQM winning only one seat against the four.

There are many a slip betwixt the cup and the lips, and forthcoming general elections would show whether people of Pakistan have bought Nawaz Sharif’s narrative that the courts have wronged him. However, all is not well in the PML-N, as at least 38 PML-N legislators in Punjab Assembly had not cast their votes in favour of the party candidates in Senate elections earlier this month.

Surprisingly, Ch Sarwar emerged as the highest vote taker from Punjab assembly. He got 44 first priority votes, though the actual strength of his party in the Punjab Assembly is not more than 30 members. Likewise, the PPP candidate obtained 26 votes whereas his party has only eight members in the Assembly. The defection by the PML-N lawmakers was also evident by the less number of votes secured by the party candidates on the list of seven general seats. The problem is that Nawaz Sharif is on a collision course with the judiciary and establishment. In public meetings, he says: “The only court he is answerable to is people’s court of 200 million… The general public is neither deaf nor blind and will carry out accountability of all those who denied justice to their leader who came to power through the ballot.”

One would not know about the outcome of the NAB references in the Accountability Court, but the confrontational mode of the PML-N leaders is fraught with danger and uncertainty. In 1999, when Nawaz Sharif was overthrown, what some said, in a counter-coup despite his heavy mandate, people did not come on the roads to agitate on his ouster. However, according to reports, senior party leaders believe that Sharif is annoying the judiciary at a time when crucial cases are pending against him in the courts.

Anyhow, after the Senate elections, the ruling PML-N will be in a strong position to sail through any legislative process in routine lawmaking, money bills, or resolutions and motions in the National Assembly or Senate. Yet it would need the support of 32 senators to win a2/3rd majority to amend the constitution.

After Pervez Musharraf was allowed to leave the country and the Panama Leaks, Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani had said that the direction of the events taking place was reflective of the fact that democracy was in danger, adding that now test tube system and test tube government would not succeed, and the people of Pakistan will protect democracy and Constitution of Pakistan. In fact, the PPP had promised that in the event Pervez Musharraf resigned from the office of president, it would be an open and shut case. As regards the removal of Pervez Musharraf’s name from the ECL, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali had upheld the ruling of 2014 Sindh High Court. However, the court said the federation of Pakistan or the special court could pass any legal order for regulating his custody or restricting his movement.

That said, the irony is that for seven decades, the majority of the people are living in the gloom of stalking poverty, squalor, want and deprivation. They have weathered storms and suffered from human-made calamities like terrorism. But they are neither in focus of the ruling elite nor by the anchor-persons, analysts and intellectuals who more often than not highlight the elites’ grouses rather than highlighting the grievances of the downtrodden. One would hardly listen to the discussion on finding ways and means to improve the lives of teeming millions living in abject poverty. Promises made during the election campaign are forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. The irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again, and election campaigns are held as rituals, because political parties have become dynasties, and top leadership of the parties have assumed unprecedented powers through the18th amendment.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at mjamil1938@hotmail.com