ISLAMABAD - PTI’s backtracking from unconditional support to group of independent Balochistan senators has once again brought ruling PML-N and its allies in a strong position to get their man installed as Senate chairman.

With 34 senators to its credit, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has the unflinching support of National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party – both having five members each in the Upper House – taking the tally to 44.

The party leaders were hectically making efforts to win over the support of other smaller parties and independents (of Balochistan and Fata with a combined strength of 15) to reach the 53 votes mark, which is required to clinch the top slots in 104-member Senate.

Thursday’s development of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf putting its weight behind the independent group of Balochistan senators to get its man elected with the support of other parties - including PPP – had made it a neck on neck competition between PPP and PML-N led groups.

But in a dramatic way PTI placed a tough condition on its support to six-member group of Balcohistan senators, saying it would only support the group if it fields it own man for the top senatorial slot. PTI chief Imran Khan made it clear on Friday they would not vote for a PPP candidate.

Balochistan CM, after securing promise of support from PTI on Thursday, had announced that the Balochistan independents would support any candidate chosen by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari – making the PTI feel betrayed.

The flip-flop has again placed the ruling group in comfortable position as Pakistan People’s Party has 20 senators and even if it woos Fata and Balochistan independents, it would only have 35 votes, still requiring 18 votes to attain simple majority of 53.

If PPP shows stubbornness by fielding its own candidate for chairman slot, the PTI would keep out of the race. This would make PPP appear a definite looser. The smaller players would then rush to support the PML-N and its allies – making it quite easier for them to win.

PML-N Quiad Nawaz Sharif would be having a final round of talks today (Saturday) with coalition partners and other parties and groups having representation in the Upper House and would announce the candidates for the slots of chairman and deputy chairman.

On Friday Fata senators held a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and presented their demands list to him for extending support to government candidates.

Some insiders said Fata group has sought the slot of deputy chairman from the ruling alliance, besides provision of funds for ongoing development projects and some other concessions regarding reforms in the north-western tribal areas.

Sources said that Premier Abbasi assured them of giving due considerations to their demands about development projects and place the matter of deputy chairman slot in today’s meeting of the ruling alliance.

Sources in PML-N informed that the party leaders were busy meeting with smaller groups and parties to woo their support. They further informed that Pir Sibgatullah Rashidi led PML-F would support PML-N candidate. The party has two senators in the house.

Similarly, PML-N is optimistic about winning over MQM and JUI-F with five and four senators respectively in the house, though both these parties were sitting on the fence and still have not decided in favour of any party.

In another move JUI-F has called the meeting of recently revived Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal on Senate Election Day (March 12) to devise a joint strategy on Senate elections. As JI – a member of MMA - has two seats in Upper House, the combined strength of the religious parties group stands at six.

Sources said JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman was still trying to convince all major political parties to settle for the candidature of incumbent Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani. He would make a final effort for it today (Saturday).

Sources said that Fazl was in contact with both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, and it was on his push that Nawaz had proposed Rabbani’s name – a proposal that was immediately rejected by Zardari.

The PPP chairman now apparently has two clear choices – either to give in to PTI’s demand for nomination of a Balochistan independent member for senate slot or agree to PML-N’s proposal for re-electing Rabbani.



PTI’s backtracking brightens PML-N victory chance


Abrar Saeed