ISLAMABAD - Backed by allied opposition, independent senator Sadiq Sanjrani and PPP’s Saleem Mandviwalla were elected chairman and deputy chairman of the upper house of parliament, on Monday.

Presiding Officer Senator Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar conducted the election for new chairman through secret balloting. Senator-elect Ishaq Dar, who is under treatment abroad, could not attend the session.

After the vote count, the presiding officer declared Sanjrani successful. He bagged 57 votes and was declared chairman of the 104-member Senate.

The runner-up, ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Raja Zafarul Haq could secure only 46 votes.

Sanjrani was nominated by Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bijenzo for the Senate top slot. His candidature was backed by Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – the otherwise bitter political rivals.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and independents from Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) also voted for Sanjrani. The eight Fata members in fact announced their support for Sanjrani at the eleventh hour.

Sanjrani is the first senator from Balochistan to be elected chairman of the Senate. Earlier, the Senate witnessed a historic moment when minority woman from Thar, Krishna Kohli, took oath as senator.

After the announcement of results, the presiding officer administered oath to the newly-elected Senate chairman.

This was followed by the election for the deputy chairman, which was conducted by Senate Chairman Sanjrani.

PPP’s Senator Saleem Mandviwalla and the ruling coalition’s nominee Usman Khan Kakar were in the contest.

Mandviwalla won by pocketing 54 votes against Kakar of the PkMAP who got 44 votes. In all, 98 votes were cast in this contest, with no ballot rejected.

Interestingly, five members of the treasury benches did not cast their vote in the election for deputy chairman and left the House, apparently in disappointment after losing the election for chairman.

MQM-Ps’ Bahadurabad group earlier said it would not support Mandviwalla for the post of deputy chairman.

Explaining his party’s stance after a meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Sanjrani, MQM-P Senator Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said: “It will not be possible for us to vote for the PPP [deputy chairman] candidate” due to the PPP government’s performance in Sindh.

The PML-N, which appeared to be floundering without the backing of other major players in politics, had held meetings with allies on Monday morning to finalise their nominees for the top posts after Sanjrani emerged as joint opposition’s top contender on Sunday.

During a meeting at PML-N leader Raheel Muneer’s residence in Islamabad earlier yesterday, the ruling party and its allies had decided on Raja Zafarul Haq as their pick for chairman and Kakar for deputy chairman, according to Senator Mushahidullah.

In addition to the PkMAP, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), National Party, Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) had all thrown their weight behind the PML-N backed candidates.

ANP Senator Sitara Ayaz said its sole vote would go to the ruling coalition’s candidates as the PPP had refused to field Raza Rabbani as its candidate for the slot of chairman.

Senate Chairman Sanjrani thanked the members for electing him and sought their cooperation in matters relating to legislation and other business of the House.

He said all independent members of the House will have to join the opposition or treasury benches within seven days.

The chairman said that no independent member will be allowed to cast his vote in the election for the opposition leader in the Senate. He asked the members to submit names of candidates for opposition leader, to chairman’s office.

Congratulating the newly elected Senate chairman, several members expressed the hope that the new chairman will follow in the footsteps of Mian Raza Rabbani and uphold democratic norms.

Raja Zafarul Haq expressed the hope that the new Senate chairman will continue to follow his predecessor Raza Rabbani’s policies and uphold democratic norms. He said the constitution assured him of full cooperation.

Rabbani, while congratulating the new Senate chairman, assured him of his support to law and supremacy of parliament. He said they would continue their battle for supremacy of parliament everywhere in the country.

Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Mir Hasil Khan Bazinejo made a hard-hitting speech, saying that “democracy failed and undemocratic forces won today”. He said that “non-democratic forces have established today they can make the parliament a market”.

Others who spoke on the occasion were Sirajul Haq, Maulana Atta-ur-Rahman, Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, Aurangzeb Khan, Azam Swati and Sitara Ayaz.

PPP Senator Krishna Kohli had arrived along with her family in traditional Thari attire. Speaking to the media, before the voting, she expressed her desire to work on healthcare and water-related issues, which she said were the biggest problems faced by women in Tharparkar.

Earlier in the day, 52 newly-elected members of the upper house were administered oath by presiding officer Sardar Yaqoob Nasar.

The Senate consists of 66 general seats, 17 women seats, 17 technocrat seats and four minority seats. Of these 104 seats, each province has 23 seats, including 14 general seats, four women seats, four technocrat seats and a non-Muslim seat.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas has eight general seats in the Senate while Islamabad has four seats, including two general seats, a women seat and a technocrat seat.

The House was prorogued after the oath and election for the two top slots.



Opp men clinch top Senate positions