LAHORE - The election of Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri as Deputy Chairman of Senate last week came as a big surprise for many for a variety of reasons.

He is from a party which has only five Senators in a House of 104. Another strange thing in his election was the fact that he also won the support of three parties with a liberal outlook despite his right wing credentials. And this is why he makes an odd combination with Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani who supports liberal values.

Many Senators including those of the PPP, ANP, MQM, PMLQ and nationalist parties from Balochistan had reservations over his candidature, but they were left with no option but to support him.  

Insiders privy to the multi-party consultation process at that time have attributed three main factors which led to Maulana Haideri’s election to the second most important office in the Senate of Pakistan.

First, almost all political parties excluding the PTI had reached consensus that deputy chairman should be from the smallest province, Balochistan. It was from here that things started turning in favour of the Maulana; but still there were hurdles to overcome.

The PPP with four Senators from Balochistan was content with election of its chairman and wanted the deputy from some other party, preferably a women. The ANP with one Senator from that province also did not lay its claim on the seat. The PML-N had already declared to not to put its candidates from any of the two offices though it has got three Senators from Balochistan. The MQM also became out of the race on technical grounds since it has no Senator from there.

The PML-N allies in Balochistan, the National Party and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party with combined strength of six refused to accept the office of deputy chairman. Hasil Bizenjo of National Party could have been the candidate but he declined the offer. In fact he was eyeing the slot of chairman but the numbers were not in favour of the ruling alliance.

Now, the PML-Q with four Senators in the upper house (two from Balochistan), and the JUI-F with five Senators (three from Balochistan) were left in the race. The PPP wanted that the slot should go to Rubina Irfan of PML-Q, and other allied parties; the ANP and the MQM also had no objection to her candidature.

In the meanwhile, Maulana Fazalur Rehman floated the name of Senator Hafiz Hammadullah for the office. Aitzaz Ahsan of the PPP, who was part of the consultations on the issue, opposed Hafiz’ candidature citing his two-month old statement against women in which he had advised them to remain at home and in veil when outside. Maulana then presented the name of Ghafoor Haideri.

As the negotiations were still on, Maulana Fazal sought help from Nawaz Sharif who told Zardari that his party would not like a PML-Q man to occupy an important position in the upper house. The PML-N which had declared a day earlier to support the consensus candidates of the opposition parties for the two slots put its weight behind a JUI-F candidate not backed by the opposition parties.

But the situation was such that they were left with no other choice. They did not want to destroy the atmosphere of reconciliation by taking a stand to the contrary. This proved a turning point in Maulana Haideri’s victory.