ISLAMABAD - Senators across party lines yesterday showed an unprecedented unity demanding fiscal powers for the upper house at par with National Assembly so that they could deliver to masses.

While they opposed direct election process, like that of MNAs, for them, they demanded the senators should be given uplift funds similar to the financial packages given to MNAs.

The proposals were floated at Senate hall during the ‘meeting of the whole committee of Senate’ under the chair of chairman Senate regarding mode of election to Senate.

While they acknowledged the influence of money in election of a senator, nobody in the house sounded in favour of direct elections to the upper house arguing that the direct mode of election would be wastage of huge money.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said Pakistan cannot match the democracy existing in the United States where members of Congress are directly elected to the house; he said the practice would be a Herculean task in Pakistan.

How to discourage the senators from buying votes through money during Senate election was the topic that was extensively discussed in the house without any solution to put an end to the horse trading.

PML-N Senator Lt Gen (Retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi recalled an incident in a luxury hotel in Peshawar during Senate election held in March last year. He said there was open exchange of brief cases laden with money and MPAs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly were receiving the brief cases from the contesting aspirants of Senate.

Senator Hasil Bizinjo of National Party confessed that MNAs and MPAs in the country are up for sale during election to Senate but disapproved the direct mode of election to the upper house.

Chairman Senate himself raised voice for the financial empowerment of Senate arguing that the National Assembly too was not the product of direct elections. He said that 60 women MNAs are elected on reserved seats while 10 MNAs are indirectly elected on seats reserved for minority, technocrats and peasants.

“It means that only 272 MNAs are directly elected while 70 MNAs are elected indirectly. Then why Senate is not given fiscal authority on the pretext that it is not elected directly?” Raza Rabbani observed.

But some senators pointed out the ‘illogical’ selection of political parties regarding award of tickets to members to a candidate who is not resident of a particular province but gets elected from that area.

Mohsin Laghari pointed out that the incumbent senator elected from Islamabad was not resident of the capital but of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Similarly, he said some senators elected from Punjab are residents of Sindh. “If Senate means equal representation of provinces, this practice should be discouraged,” he said.

PTI lawmakers too opposed direct election for Senate but wished that they should be given financial packages on the pattern of the members of National Assembly.

Some senators said that only rich people can contest Senate election as an ordinary person cannot invest money involved in buying of MPAs and MNAs for the election.

But Taj Haider of PPP said the Senate was not rich men’s club only as senators of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and MQM are elected senators without money. He, however, did not name his own party in this regard.