The government and opposition parties, excluding the PTI and the JUI-F, have decided to elect PPP Senator Raza Rabbani for the position of Senate Chairman. The move has come as a pleasant surprise for many, who feared confrontation between government and opposition parties. The emergence of Senator Raza Rabbani as a consensus candidate bodes well for the country’s democratic setup. But was this consensus formed overnight or was it something that the PPP and the PML-N had in mind all along? Certain reports suggest that the PML-N leadership had conveyed to the PPP that the government might be open to supporting the PPP’s candidate if it nominated Raza Rabbani, who is respected across party lines. But, that doesn’t mean that the PML-N did not attempt to woo parties to support it instead of the PPP. It appears that those efforts did not bear fruit for the ruling party. It even contacted the MQM to ask for support, which is indeed a rare occurrence.

But with every passing minute, it was becoming clearer that the PML-N would not be able to secure the required votes. Its campaign would ultimately result in futility and only serve to irk the PPP and allies and increase tensions in the political arena. Then of course there is the PTI factor. The PTI now has six members in the Upper House. Any confrontation between the PPP and the PML-N would benefit the PTI by making it relevant in the Senate elections. PTI Chairman Imran Khan had said that his party might support the PML-N provided that it fulfills its demand for the formation of a judicial commission to probe rigging allegations. The last thing that the PML-N would want is to rely on the PTI to compete against the PPP. Such cooperation may take place over a seat or two, but in the context of election for Senate Chairman, it would be viewed as a dramatic political shift, which may have unintended consequences.

In PPP, the PML-N has a familiar foe that doesn’t wish to derail the entire system. In PTI, it has a rival that has been launching attack after attack and cannot be trusted to offer consistent support over anything. It isn’t political maturity or regard for democratic principles that compelled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to endorse Senator Raza Rabbani, but the fear of damaging implications of not doing so. With this decision, PTI Senators are now completely irrelevant. Regardless, it is a good decision that ought to be welcomed by all.