ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari is no mood to strike a deal with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on the Senate chairman’s elections next week, sources said.

The Pakistan People’s Party sources told The Nation that Zardari was ‘on a mission’ to defeat the PML-N in the Senate chairman’s elections before going into the general election later this year.

Zardari, the sources said, wanted the PML-N to either vote for the PPP candidate in the Senate or face it in the election. “Zardari is in no mood to accept any deal with the PML-N. At this stage, we are in contact with all the parties except the PML-N,” said a close aide to the PPP Co-chairman.

The PPP and the PML-N are eyeing support from the independent candidates who form a sizeable group in the Senate.

The PPP sources said the party had tentatively short-listed the names of Senator Sherry Rehman and outgoing Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani for the top Senate slot but other names were also being considered.

Amid allegations of horse-trading, the Senate elections for half of its seats on March 3 concluded with the ruling PML-N — whose candidates had to contest the polls as independents after the Supreme Court’s disqualified Nawaz Sharif as part chief last month – taking the lead. The PML-N won 15 new seats taking the total seats of the party in the Senate to 33.

The PPP, the second largest party in parliament, exceeded expectations particularly in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh by securing a total of 12 new seats. The total strength of the PPP is now 20 in the 104-member House. The PTI, which managed to win six seats in KP, has taken its number to 12.

In addition, 12 seats went to the independent candidates. The results triggered a race for the Senate chairman slot in which PML-N has the backing of 46 senators while the PPP enjoys the support of 36 senators. A total of 53 votes would be required to win the Senate chairman slot.

However, Zardari believes his party has the support of several independents and his candidate will be able to win the top slot in the Senate. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also dared the PML-N to elect its candidate as the Senate chairman - challenging the ruling party’s claims of the majority.

The Senate — the Upper House of Parliament — is a body of 104 lawmakers. Each Senator serves a term of six years, barring resignations, disqualifications or other extraordinary circumstances. They are not all elected at the same time, rather, half are elected in one election and the other half three years later.

PPP central Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira told The Nation that his party was in talks with other parties for support. “As far as I know, there is no contact with the PML-N. We are engaged in talks with the opposition parties,” he said.

Kaira said that the PPP was optimistic to win the Senate chairman’s slot along with the deputy chairman’s post. “Next week, we will see a PPP victory in the Senate. We are finalizing the candidates through consultations,” he said.

PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said that Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah will be back in Islamabad today (March 7) after his son’s wedding and the PPP will start serious discussions on the Senate chairman’s election.

“We will first hold our own party meeting and then try to meet other parties for cooperation. The opposition parties have good numbers and we are hopeful to surprise the PML-N on March 12,” he said.

Babar said that the PPP would finalize its candidates for the posts of Senate chairman and deputy chairman soon. “We will need inputs from other parties too to nominate acceptable candidates,” he said.

This week, the PPP contacted the PTI to discuss the caretaker prime minister, chief ministers and the interim cabinets in the centre and the provinces to conduct the upcoming general election. The two parties also exchanged views on the election of the Senate chairman and the deputy chairman.

On Tuesday, former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani called on Bilawal in Karachi to discuss the upcoming elections of the Senate chairman and the deputy chairman.