LAHORE - It was what they feared. At least 11 PML-N MPAs voted against the party line in Thursday’s Senate election from Punjab, taking advantage of the secret ballot.

In addition to it, 15 PML-N legislators committed technical mistakes while casting their votes either intentionally or unintentionally. But this made their votes invalid. Insiders believe they did it by choice.

Nadeem Afzal Chan of PPP was the beneficiary of these defections who got 27 first priority votes as against the combined strength of the PPP and PML-Q in the Punjab Assembly which stands at 16 at the moment. Both the parties have eight members each in a House of 371. Three independents also voted for him. In fact he got 30 votes but three were declared invalid on technical grounds.

But this did not come as a surprise for the PML-N leadership. They were expecting such a thing to happen and this was the reason why they supported PTI’s proposal for an open ballot in the Senate polls.   

Given the overwhelming majority of PML-N in Punjab Assembly, it was a foregone conclusion that PML-N would sweep the polls. But still the Senate election in Punjab was watched with curiosity. Every body wanted to know how many votes the sole opposition candidate was going to grab as it was already in the air that some ruling party lawmakers may defect their party.

A PML-N candidate from Punjab, Mushahidullah Khan, now a Senator-elect, admitted that only eight PML-N MPAs voted against the party line. But he was still happy at the outcome as he said that opponents were expecting the worst which did not happen.

Though these defections did not have the effect of changing the overall results from Punjab in a big way, they have definitely exposed a degree of resentment among the party lawmakers against the PML-N leadership. Many have the feeling that Sharifs hold them in contempt.

“We have been treated like a herd of sheep in the last three days as our movements were being constantly watched,” a PML-N MPA shared with The Nation seeking anonymity for fear of a possible backlash.

According to sources, the PML-N has formed a committee to identify the rebel MPAs. Of late, there were reports, though unconfirmed, that former Punjab Governor Ch Sarwar campaigned for the PPP candidate. He reportedly persuaded some PML-N legislators from Faisalabad division not to vote for their party candidates.

Punjab Government’s spokesperson Zaeem Qadri had no clue of the members who ditched their party in Thursday’s Senate contest. “Ask this question from the PPP which might be knowing the names since it has indulged in the horse-trading,” this was the only explanation he had to offer to the media on the issue.

The voting pattern in Thursday’s election also suggests that had the PTI not boycotted the Senate elections in Punjab and the opposition fielded a joint candidate, they could have deprived the PML-N of one Senate seat with ease.

There was jubilation in the PPP ranks over the extra votes its candidate got in the election. “We had never expected victory in the elections from Punjab. But we are happy that a good number of PML-N legislators have expressed their distrust over the leadership,” PPP candidate Nadeem Afzal Chan told reporters outside Punjab Assembly, adding, “Today’s election results have proved that 2013 general election was RO’s election”. Terming it a big success for the PPP, Chan said that many more lawmakers of the PML-N may have defected had they no fear of the prosecution they might face afterwards.