ISLAMABAD - Amid allegations of massive horse-trading, the upper house of parliament is set to elect 52 new Senators today (Thursday).

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has undertaken all measures to conduct polls in the four provincial assemblies, the National Assembly and Fata.

Half of the 104-member house would be completing its 6-year tenure on March 11.

The outgoing 52 Senators of nine political parties, including six independent members of the upper house attended their last session on Wednesday that was prorogued till indefinite period although the outgoing Chairman Senate Nayyar Bukhari would administer oath to the new members on March 12.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies would elect 12 new Senators respectively, Punjab and Sindh would choose 11 members each, while four Senators from FATA and two from Islamabad would make it to the Senate for completing the 104-member house.

The outgoing Senators include 21 Senators of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), eight of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), six of Awami National Party (ANP), three each of MQM and JUI-F, two of Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami), one each of PML-Q, National Party (NP), PkMAP, and six independent candidates.

The ECP on Wednesday placed ballot boxes in the hall of the National Assembly where Additional Secretary ECP Sher Afgan would be Returning Officer (RO) for conducting polls of the federal area and Director General Usman Ali would be RO for election of Fata members.

The ECP also displayed stickers in different parts of the Parliament House, warning the voters not to carry mobile phones in the hall although the commission did not specify any punishment for those who would violate the instructions.

Election to the upper house of parliament is conducted amid blame game of horse-trading and massive use of money by candidates and political parties for buying loyalties.

On Wednesday, Senators were seen sipping tea together and hugging one another with some hoping to make a comeback to the Senate and some sure that the Wednesday session of the upper house was their last day in a house where they were members for the last six years.

Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and the witty Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch were seen offbeat during the Senate session while Senator Afrasiab Khattak who would usually stay in his chamber, left the premises immediately after the session was prorogued.

“It’s obvious that one would feel different when he says farewell to a house with which he holds six years long association. As a senator, I raised voice for public on issues related to the masses,” Senator Zahid Khan of the ANP told The Nation.

MNAs were also observed hugging the outgoing Senators even when the session of the lower house was in progress. The staff of Senate and guards at the reception of the main entry hall of the Parliament House would also make a farewell handshake.

Majority of the retiring Senators complained about horse-trading although Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (Retd) Sardar Raza Khan in a statement said that the ECP would take strict action against any member found involved in horse-trading.

The general gossip inside the parliament was as to who would be the next Senate chairman and if a political party would emerge as the single majority party in the upper house.

With the PPP confident about emerging as majority party in Thursday’s poll, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan made an unprecedented appearance at the Parliament cafeteria in order to check the pulse of reporters over their assertion of the seventh possible chairman of the upper house.

But to his dismay, no reporter floated his name and instead talked about Senator Rehman Malik, Taj Haider and even Noor Alam Khan who is contesting from KP on the PPP ticket. “I am not yet sure which party will bring maximum number of Senators let alone the chairman of Senate,” he said and left the venue.

However, Senators predicted that the PPP would once again grab the slot of Chairman on account of being single majority party. They said the PPP’s alliance with other parties and some independent members will make the difference.

Four senators, two each of PPP and MQM, have already been elected unopposed.