ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz gained clear majority in parliament's upper house on Saturday, in a boost for the ruling party and its besieged leadership ahead of the general elections due in summer.

Lawmakers from four provincial assemblies and federal parliament voted in secret for electing new senators, who are due to serve six-year terms.

According to the provisional results, the candidates backed by the PML-N enjoyed a clear lead in the secret ballot for Senate’s 52 seats that were up for grabs, by pocketing a total of 15 seats – 11 from Punjab, two from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and all two seats of Islamabad federal area.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which earlier was the biggest group in the upper house, did better than expected as it secured 12 seats.

It slew the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan in Sindh to pocket 10 seats, against the expected seven slots, and even grabbed two seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) - where it has only six MPAs.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of Imran Khan, the arch rival of PML-N, managed to secure a total of six seats, as expected. However, the win of party candidate Ch Sarwar on a Punjab seat was astonishing for many as PTI has only 31 MPAs in the provincial assembly and other opposition parties had fielded their own candidates.

Independent candidates (other than those backed by PML-N) secured 10 seats – six in Balochistan and all four seats of Fata (Federally-Administered Tribal Areas).

As for rest of the parties, Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PkMAP) and National Party (NP) secured two seats each from Balochistan. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) also got two seats – one each from Balochistan and KP.

Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and Jamat Islami (JI) secured one seat each from Sindh and KP respectively.

The MQM-P could secure only one seat against the expected three to four seats due to internal rifts and fragmentation, the obvious beneficiary of which was PPP.

The unexpected gains of PPP lend credence to allegations of horse-trading, though, unlike the last senate elections in 2015, lawmakers were not even allowed to take their phones into the assemblies during the vote to prevent foul play.

The ruling PML-N faced an expected loss of seats from Balochistan due to the last month’s defection within the ruling party in the province which led to the de-seating of chief minister Sanaullah Zehri.

Party position in Senate now

Working with allied parties in the senate, PML-N should now have de facto control of the 104-seat chamber.

With addition of 15 members (elected independently with PML-N support), the party will now have 32 members – as it already has 17 members that would retain their slots for next three years.

The PPP which earlier was the leading party at Senate has assumed second position with a total of 20 senators – eight from the old lot and 12 new members.

PTI now has 12 senators, six of them old and six new.

National Party with two new seats now has five senators.

MQM-P also, with addition of one seat, now has five senators.

PkMAP also now has five seats as it will retain three old senators and has got two new seats.

JUI-F with two new senators now has four seats in the upper house.

Jamat Islami now has two senators – one old and one new.

ANP and BNP-M, which have failed to win any seat, will each have one old senator.

PML-Functional, which had no senator to retain from the old lot, now has won seat.

A total 15 members of the new Senate are independent – five old and 10 new.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Balochistan National Party (Awami) were eliminated from the Upper House as both these parties failed to win any seat while the sitting senators of these parties would be retiring on March 11.

Names of winners

PML-N backed independent winners: Dr Asif Kirmani, Shaheen Butt, Haroon Khan, Musadik Malik, Rana Maqbool and Zubair Gull won on six of the seven general seats from Punjab.

Ruling party’s candidates Ishaq Dar and Hafiz Abdul Karim were elected on technocrat seats; Nuzhat Sadiq and Saadia Abbasi took the women's seats; and Kamran Michael won on minorities seat from Punjab.

PML-N's Sabir Shah also secured a general seat from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), while Dilawar Khan backed by the party secured a technocrats’ seat.

From Federal Capital, ruling PML-N backed candidates Mushahid Hussain Syed and Asad Junejo won with thumping majority.

PPP winners: Raza Rabbani, Mola Bakhsh Chandio, Mohammad Ali Jamot, Imamuddin Shauqeen and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar (Sindh: General seats); Sikandar Mendhro and Rukhsana Zuberi (Sindh: technocrat seats); Krishna Kohli and Quratulain Marri (Sindh: women's seats); and Anwar Laal Deen (Sindh: minorities seat); Bahramand Tangi (KP: General); and Rubina Khalid (KP: Women).

PTI winners: Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar (Punjab: General); Ayub Afridi, Faisal Javed and Fida Muhammad Ayub (KP: General); Azam Swati (KP: Technocrat); and Mehar Taj Roghani (KP: Women)

JUI-F: Talha Mahmood (KP: General); and Maulana Faiz Muhammad (Balochistan: General)

PkMAP: Sardar Shafiq Tareen and Abida Omar (Balochistan)

NP: Tahir Bizenjo and Akram Dashti (Balochistan)

MQM: (Sindh general) Barrister Farogh Naseem on general seat

PML-F: Muzaffar Hussain (Sindh: General)

JI: Mushtaq Ahmad Khan (KP: General)

Independents: Anwarul Haq Kakar, Ahmed Khan, Kuhda Babar and Sadiq Sanjrani (General); Sana Jamali (Women); and Naseebullah Bazai (Technocrat), all from Balochistan. And, Shammim Afridi, Mirza Muhammad Afridi, Hidayat Ullah and Hillalur Rehman (from Fata).

Significance of this election

The result of Senate polls may revive the political fortunes of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has clashed with the judiciary since the Supreme Court ended his premiership in July by disqualifying him from office over undeclared assets.

Nawaz, who along with his other family members, is facing corruption trial in accountability court, was also dethroned as head of his party in an apex court judgment on a new election law – which also deprived the PML-N candidates to contest Senate contest on the party ticket.

"PML-N now the single largest party in Senate as well, Masha'Allah," tweeted Nawaz Sharif's daughter and presumed heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who too is being tried by the National Accountability Bureau over corruption charges.

Winning control of the Senate could enable the PML-N to change the constitution to make Nawaz eligible to hold office again when the party contests a national election due later this year.

PML-N leader Mushadullah hinted this a couple of days ago when he speaking in the National Assembly warned judiciary against ‘interfering’ in political affairs and governance, saying the parliament would act if all this did not stop.

Under the constitution a bill cannot become law unless it is passed by both upper and lower houses of parliament. And for a constitutional amendment, two-thirds majority is required. The ruling coalition already has a large majority in the National Assembly but it lacked a clear majority in Senate earlier.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who won a seat in capital Islamabad, told media that the senate victory vindicates Nawaz Sharif's political "narrative" with voters.

Nawaz Sharif has been deeply critical of the judiciary, accusing it of a conspiracy to hurt his party and Pakistan's civilian leaders. He is leading a political campaign to establish, what he calls, supremacy of parliament and respect of public mandate.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan has been forced to repeatedly clarify that judiciary’s action over Sharif family’s alleged corruption won’t hurt democracy and the judges believe in the supremacy of the parliament.

Opposition parties, especially the PTI that spearheaded the demand for accountability of the ruling family after their foreign assets appeared in Panama leaks, sees Nawaz Sharif’s anti-judiciary campaign as a cover to hide his wrongdoings and a strategy to push judiciary and NAB on the back foot.

Polling in Punjab

(SAJID ZIA & IQTIDAR GILANI report from LAHORE)

Peaceful and disciplined polling took place in the Punjab Assembly for Senate seats from 9am to 4pm without break, though at a stage the PTI members accused the ruling party of committing rigging.

It was a rainy day but 368 of the 371 MPAs turned out to cast their vote. Breakfast was also arranged for the members in the Assembly premises where very tight security was maintained inside and outside.

PML-N backed candidates pocketed 11 of the 12 seats yet the landslide victory was dimmed by the unexpected win of PTI candidate Ch Muhammad Sarwar, as the PML-N members believed they would not let any seat go to their rivals.

The reason for surprise was that PTI with 31 MPAs in the Punjab Assembly succeeded in securing the seat by touching the magic figure of 44 despite the fact that other opposition parties, namely PML-Q and the PPP with eight seats each, too had fielded their own candidates.

Minister Iqbal Chunnar, who had recently undergone heart surgery, was the first to cast vote, followed by Law Minister Rana Sannaullah Khan.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, despite not feeling well and being advised rest by the doctors, reached the Assembly at about 2pm to cast his vote.

He was accompanied by the ministers and the members and loud slogans were raised on his arrival. Members also congratulated the CM on his assuming headship of the PML-N.

Briefly talking to media, the chief minister said that timely conduct of Senate election would go a long way to strengthen democracy. This has disappointed their political opponents, he added.

Former Chief Minister Ch Pervez Elahi also came to the Assembly while Treasury MPA Arshad Lodhi came to cast vote on a wheel chair.

During the polling, PTI members led by Shaoib Siddique went to the presiding officer and claimed that the members of the ruling party were dropping blank chits in the ballot-box and the following person was casting vote on their behalf. They wanted the PO to check the box but he did not accept their demand and continued polling.

A protest by the jobless blind at the main gate of the Assembly continued until after the polling time. They also knocked the PA gate with sticks to attract attention of parliamentarians. They wanted to go in but were prevented by the security men in a peaceful way.

Earlier, Law Minster Rana Sanaullah Khan told the media persons that the N-backed candidates were going to get all 12 seats, a claim that was also repeated by others leaders of the ruling party.

After 11 PML-N backed candidates had clearly come up winner in the unofficial results, everyone was crossing fingers to see what happens with the last seat as a close contest was being reported between PTI’s Sarwar and N-backed Zubair Gul.

It was quite dismaying for the PML-N when Ch Sarwar was announced not only winner but also standing at the top of all runners for the general seats of the Upper House.

The excitement of PML-N members – who were highly jubilant over the victory of their 11 candidates and were chanting full throated slogans in praise of Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif and for the party – was abruptly dampened after Sarwar’s victory.

The PTI members including their City President Aleem Khan took over the scene, dancing and loudly chanting slogans in favour of Imran Khan and the party after the win of Sarwar was announced unofficially.

The situation was so painful for the PML-N that MPA of this party, Azma Bokhari could not resist tears in her eyes. She vented her fury on Sarwar, severely criticising him and levelling serious allegations on him.

Later, the PML-N leaders in media interaction expressed their satisfaction over the results saying they have secured the seats according to their strength in the Assembly.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa polling

(Nader Buneri reported from Peshawar)

Amid tight security and strict vigilance of the presiding officer, the Senate elections were held in a peaceful atmosphere in KP Assembly.

The polling started at 9am and continued till 4pm, while 122 members of the KP Assembly cast their votes.

PTI grabbed five seats in the Senate elections from KP Assembly followed by two each by PPP and the independents backed by the PML-N.

PTI-backed Maulana Samiul Haq lost as he could only get three votes.

The Qawmi Watan Party despite having the strength of nine MPAs failed to get even a single seat and there were rumours that the QWP members might have struck a deal with the PPP which succeeded in getting two seats with only six MPAs in hand.

Two MPAs, Baldev Kumar and Abdul Muneem did not cast their vote. Baldev had not taken the oath as a member of KP Assembly while Abdul Muneim had been de-seated after a Supreme Court verdict.

Ziaullah Afridi was the first member to cast the vote and Muhammad Ali Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islami was the last member to cast the ballot.

A heavy contingent of the police and Frontier Constabulary was deployed on the premises of the provincial assembly and the surrounding areas.

Lawmakers including women MPAs were searched for mobile phones and bags ahead of the polling. Women police officials had also been deployed for the body search of women MPAs.

Adviser to KP Chief Minister Mushtaq Ghani and Muzafar Said took off their waistcoats for the body search. The members also objected to the cameras installed at the site of polling booths to ensure the secrecy of the balloting.

The Election Commission of Pakistan had designated Provincial Election Commissioner Pir Maqbool Ahmad as the presiding officer who performed his duty with utmost care and vigilance.

He expressed his satisfaction over the arrangements and the peaceful polling, and thanked the members for cooperating with the returning officer.

Sindh scene

(Abdullah Zafar reported form Karachi)

Pakistan People’s Party on Saturday secured 10 seats from Sindh Assembly in Senate elections amid severe allegations of horse trading from second biggest party of the assembly Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan which failed to put a show due to severe internal rifts among party ranks.

Sindh Chief Election Commissioner Muhammad Yousuf Khattak announced victory of 10 PPP candidates and one each of MQM-P and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional.

Talking to media outside the assembly, the provincial CEC said that they had conducted the election process as per rules and regulation and the process was so transparent that no could raise figures towards them.

“Even the political parties and their political agents had raised no objections or not filed any complaints regarding the polling process,” he said.

The polling process was initiated in the assembly at 9am and PPP candidate Rubina Qaimkhani, whose son died in a road accident a day before, was the first to cast her vote in the house.

The polling continued unabated till 4PM and it took more than two hours to the ECP officials to compile the results. Strict security arrangements were made in and outside of the provincial assembly.

The PPP had fielded 12 candidates of which its two candidates on general seats Barrister Murtaza Wahab and Ayaz Mehar remained unable to win their seats.

The MQM-P fielded 13 candidates on each category but was only able to acquire the seat from general seat of Dr Faroogh Naseem who was nominated by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui led faction, while the party candidate Kamran Tessori - who was the bone of contention among party ranks and was a nominee from Sattar group - failed to secure victory.

PML-F only fielded Syed Muzaffar Shah on general seat and was able to secure a seat.

Pak Sarzameen Party fielded four candidates (three in general category and one for minority seat) while PTI and PML-N fielded one candidate each in general category but none of them could secure any seat.

According to ECP Officials, out of a total house of 168 members, 161 of them cast their votes while five lawmakers were abroad – MQM-P leaders Khalid Iftikhar, Adnan Ahmed, Khalid Bin Wilayat and Adil Siddiqui and a PPP leader Owais Muzzaffar.

Two seats of the assembly have fallen vacant after death of Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani and Sardar Ahmed Ali Khan Pitafi.

Although the chief election commissioner did not gave details of the votes polled but the unofficial results showed that the PPP candidates secured at least 14 more votes from the defectors of other political parties, especially MQM-P.

The PPP had the support of 94 of its lawmakers and one member from National Peoples Party but the party candidates on technocrat seats were able to secure more than 15 votes as per its strength.

According to unofficial results, the PPP candidates on technocrat seat Dr Sikander Mandhro and Rukhsana Zuberi secured 63 and 51 votes respectively, making it a total of 114 votes while the party candidates on women seats including Kesu Bai and Quratul Ain Marri bagged 55 votes each despite PPP having support of only 93 of its lawmakers and one vote from NPP.       

The Mutahida Qaumi Movemnet had alleged that at least 14 of its lawmakers had not abided by the party directions to vote for its candidates while former Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim also alleged that some of the opposition parties’ lawmakers also supported PPP Candidates.

Talking to media at the provincial assembly, MQM-P (PIB) Convener Farooq Sattar blamed PPP of extensively carrying out horse trading in the elections process and said that PPP lawmakers Mukesh Kumar Chawla and Owais Shah escorted at least six MQM-P defectors including five women lawmakers and Saleem Bandhani in the morning to cast votes in favour of PPPP candidates.

“At least 14 our candidates had defected today including the six who came along with PPP early in the morning while other than that there are eight more members of which three had wasted their ballot papers and five of them had voted for other party’s candidates,” he said.

Sattar said that they would investigate as to who were the lawmakers who betrayed with the party policies.

He also said that the process to disenfranchise the people of urban Sindh began in October last year when their majority of 50 lawmakers was lowered to 36 after some members joined PSP.

“Rifts among the party ranks could be the reason of our defeat but it should also be noted that we had 50 provincial assembly seats when we won four seats in Senate polls three years back,” he said adding that the Senate polls experts had told them before the polls that they had only one secure seat and had to take support of other parties for securing more than that in the Senate polls.

PTI Parliamentary Leader Khurram Sher Zaman said that they voted for PML-F candidate Muzaffar Hussain Shah while the PSP Leader Dr Sagheer Ahmed also confirmed that they had voted for the PML-F candidate.

Balochistan polling

(Sharif Khan reported form Quetta)

Balochistan senate elections were also completed peacefully, amidst tight security.

In the 65 assembly, 64 lawmakers voted for 11 slots of the Senate as the Election Commission of Pakistan de-seated PkMPA rebel legislator Manzoor Ahmed Kakr last day for defection.

The candidates backed by ruling alliance (of PML-Q and PML-N defiant members) led the results by clinching six seats, while five seats were won by PkMAP, NP and JUI-F.

The voting started at 9am and continued till 4pm uninterruptedly. NP lawmaker Sardar Aslam Bizenjo casted first vote at around 11am.

Rigorous security measures were undertaken for the senate elections where more than 650 police crews and Frontier Corps were deployed for security purposes.

No live coverage was allowed and ban was also placed upon entry of media representatives.

DIG Quetta Abdul Razaq Cheema said that ladies police along with bomb disposal squad were also appointed in the assembly premises.

As part of the security plan, carrying of arms into assembly was banned. All avenues adjacent to Balochistan assembly were sealed.

New Composition of senate

PML-N

Old
New
TOTAL

17
15
32

PPP

Old
New
TOTAL

8
12
20

Independents

Old
New
TOTAL

5
10
15

PTI

Old
New
TOTAL

6
6
12

NP

Old
New
TOTAL

3
2
5

PkMAP

Old
New
TOTAL

3
2
5

MQM

Old
New
TOTAL

4
1
5

JUI-F

Old
New
TOTAL

2
2
4

JI

Old
New
TOTAL

1
1
2

PML-F

Old
New
TOTAL

0
1
1

ANP

Old
New
TOTAL

1
0
1

BNP-M

Old
New
TOTAL

1
0
1