The Elections year is officially in progress, with the ECP announcing elections for the Senate to be held on March 3rd. This year promises to be a good year for PML-N in the Senate, with the party guaranteed all 12 seats of Punjab due to its absolute majority in the provincial assembly, with its total membership predicted to go up to 33, compared to 26 in 2015.

Considering this, the shortlisted PML-N candidates that may potentially become Senators is worrying. Former finance minister Ishaq Dar is among the shortlisted candidates, as is Pir Sialvi, who recently threatened the government to implement Shariah or face an eruption of protests.

Ishaq Dar’s candidacy is likely to be the most controversial. Ishaq Dar has the unique achievements of having several cases against him for abetting corruption and opening fraudulent accounts, and has been named absconder by an accountability court, and at this time is in London getting treatment.

It is perplexing why a go-getter party like PML-N would consider such a handicapped candidate for Senate, other than simply to make a point against the Court. The Senate is a respectable parliamentary institution and has been the grounder for change. Good work has been done on the floor of the Upper House, and progressive declarations have been made, which would not have in the National Assembly (NA). Even if Ishaq Dar’s charges are false, the fact of the matter is that he is currently in another country, against court orders, with no sign of coming back. A person who is so medically ill will not be in a fit state to perform the arduous and consistent duties of a senator. Even if legally one can elect a senator without him being present, it would be most unwise to have a senator performing his job from a hospital bed in another country.

While Sialvi may have been shortlisted to negotiate with Khatam-e-Nubawat committees, it sets an unwise precedent to have extremist factions with disregard of law to have power to pass legislation. The consideration of extremist factions for political seats, in both PML-N and PTI’s example, is alarming for democracy.

With a majority senate, this is the opportunity for PML-N to push forward some good legislation and progressive laws, without the impediment of the opposition parties. PML-N has passed some good laws in its tenure and should not put the progress of the country at stake for political negotiation or point scoring.