ISLAMABAD - With chances of bringing constitutional amendment to block the way of horse-trading ahead of Senate elections diminishing, ruling PML-N has started looking for other options including bringing consensus candidates from all the four provinces to check the ugly business of purchasing parliamentarians’ votes.

Almost all the stakeholders in the March 5 Senate elections have endorsed the proposal of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to check horse-trading but some of these parties are opposed to the legislation on the subject in haste and want time for their legal teams to look into the legal and constitutional complexities of the matter.

The two teams constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for contacting the political parties to have their input on bringing constitutional amendment for replacing secret ballot with show of hands in the Senate elections on Wednesday met the PM to brief him on their interaction with the leaders of other parties and their point of view on the subject.

Sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting informed The Nation that Premier Sharif wanted an end to horse-trading for the elections to the apex constitutional forum and directed the team members to redouble their efforts and evolve some mechanism including the option of constitutional amendment to bring transparency in the Senate elections.

The meeting was attended by federal ministers Ishaq Dar (Finance), Pervaiz Rashid (Information), Ahsan Iqbal (Planning), Khawaja Saad Rafique (Railways); Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Mehtab Ahmad; state ministers Anusha Rahman (IT) and Jam Kamal Khan (Petroleum); and special assistants to PM Khawaja Zaheer Ahmad and Barrister Zafarullah Khan.

Various options including bringing consensus candidates from all the four provinces in consultation with the stakeholders came under discussion. It was decided in the meeting that prime minister should himself talk to the heads of major political parties on the subject and seek their help in bringing to an end this ugly business once and for all, be it through constitutional amendment or by adopting other options like bringing consensus candidates.

Sources in the government informed that PM could even call the meeting of the heads of all the parliamentary parties in next day or so to finalise some modus operandi to check horse-trading. On the direction of PM, the ministers once again approached the leadership of mainstream political parties who have stake in the Senate elections to discuss with them these options.

In this connection Railways Minister Saad Rafique along with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar held separate meetings with the leadership of Pakistan People’s Party and Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam(Fazl) to have their input on the matter and to present them the government’s point of view. They also rang up Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.

During their meeting with Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf though PPP leaders welcomed the move but raised a few technical points and sought time for a formal reply on it. Sources informed that PPP leadership was of the view that at this juncture when the process of Senate elections was in its midst, bringing constitutional amendment would not be advisable and other options to block the way of horse-trading should be looked into.

Sources said that the matter of converting the secret ballot to open ballot in Senate elections should be referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms so that it would come as part of the package of electoral reforms.

Similarly JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman gave cold shoulder to the government team which met him at his official residence on Wednesday, saying that they would not extend support to the 22nd amendment till the time their reservations on 21st amendment are not fully addressed.

In a brief media chat after the meeting Fazl said that they have conveyed their reservations to the minister and would come up with formal reply to the proposed amendment after having consultation within the party.

Saad Rafique said the reservations of JUI-F chief would be conveyed to the PM. He said the Senate elections would not be held through show of hands but they are discussing options of open ballot paper or ballot paper containing the name of voter. He said that the prime minister would convene a meeting of the political leaders in a day or two on the Senate elections and hoped that the issue would be resolved amicably.

Although Pakistan Threek-i-Insaf had welcomed the government move to change the mode of Senate elections from secret ballot to show of hand, but the party leadership was not ready to practically demonstrate it by returning back to the assemblies and casting vote in favour of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday rang up PTI Secretary General Jahangir Khan Tareen and both leaders decided to have a formal meeting in this connection today (Thursday) to discuss the matter face to face. Sources further informed that as the drafts of proposed Judicial Commission had already been exchanged between the two sides and the matter would definitely figure up in their interaction and the parties may come close to formation of mutually acceptable Judicial Commission to probe the alleged rigging in 2013 General Elections as per PTI demand.

In another development, PM Nawaz also held detailed meeting with the party parliamentarians in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and discussed with them issues relating to the Senate elections.

The central leadership of the party including KPK Governor Mehtab Abbasi and the National Assembly members from the province were also present during the meeting wherein PML-N MPs from KPK assured their unwavering support to the party candidates for Senate elections.