LAHORE - After PTI chief Imran Khan’s announcement not to vote for either the PPP or the PML-N candidate for top Senate slot, the alignment of numbers held by the two big parties suggests that MQM holds the key to the election of chairman and the deputy chairman in the upper house of parliament.

It is also highly likely that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) may agree on sharing the two top positions depending on their numbers they have just close to the election-day.

The PPP maintains its previous status of being the single largest party in the Senate with 27 members in hand, and it enjoys the support of ANP (7 senators), PML-Q (4 senators) BNP Awami (2 senators) and one independent from Balochistan, Muhammad Yousuf Badini. The PPP has played a role in the victory of Mr Badini from Balochistan. This takes its tally to 41 members. If the BNP-Mengal which is not happy with the PML-N also joins the PPP alliance, its strength would come to 42.

Now look at the expected alignments of the ruling party. With 26 senators in hand, the PML-N enjoys the support of two nationalist parties from Balochistan, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and National Party both having three senators each in the upper house. The JUI-F of Fazalur Rehman with five senators and PML-F of Pir of Pagaro having one seat are also supposed to side with the government along with five independents and the yet to be elected four senators from Fata. The count in respect of government alliance comes to 48.

But the fact remains that government is having trouble seeking support from the Fata members as most of them are extremely annoyed with it over promulgation of presidential ordinance reducing their voting power. Fazalur Rehman is also at odds with the government over the issue of 21st amendment.

The comparative party position becomes 42 (PPP alliance): 48 (PML-N alliance). And if the MQM joins the PPP alliance, its numbers would rise to 49 as against 48 of the government side. And if it decides to join the federal government, the ruling party’s numbers would rise up to 56.

Since the five senators of PTI and one of JI are most likely either to stay away from the contest or vote for a third candidate, the simple majority figure to win the top slot would come down to 50 instead of 53 if it is a two-way contest. In such a scenario, MQM would play the decisive role. The JUI-F with 5 senators doesn’t have this much leverage irrespective of which party it supports to.

Jamat-e-Islami General Secretary Liaqat Baloch was not sure about his party’s likely strategy about the Senate chairman election when this correspondent approached him for comment on PTI’s decision about not supporting the candidates of two major parties. He said his party was yet to make a decision in this regard. Baloach said neither of the two major parties had so far contacted his party chief to seek support for the coming contest.

The federal government of PML-N has much to offer to the MQM, JUI-F, independents and the yet to be elected four members from Fata. So it is comparatively in better position to secure the two top positions in the Senate. But at the same time it would be a very hard decision for the MQM to part ways with the PPP which is also in a position to accommodate it in Sindh government.

Analysts however believe that this neck-to neck fight may force the two major parties to come to an amicable settlement. The party amassing greater numbers will have the office of chairman and the one coming at number two position may have the deputy chairman slot.