ISLAMABAD: Pakistani legislators voted through secret ballot on Thursday to elect 44 Senators, with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) gaining strength as the second largest party in the Senate with 26 seats.
Official victory notifications were issued on Friday for Pakistan People's Party (PPP-P) candidate Sassui Palijo as well as Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) candidate Nighat Mirza for the women's seats from Sindh.
While notifications for PPP-P's Farooq Naek as well as MQM's Barrister Muhammad Ali Khan Saif were also issued for the technocrats seats from Sindh.
Meanwhile today, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) withheld victory notifications of two PML-N candidates Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Raheela Magsi for the Islamabad seats.
According to the ECP, the notifications will not be issued till the Islamabad High Court (IHC) gives its final verdict on petitions filed against the two candidates.
According to unofficial results obtained by Geo News on Thursday, the PPP retained its spot as the largest party but lost its strength in the Senate with only 27 seats now as compared to its previous 40 seats.
The Upper House of Parliament comprises of 104 legislators. The six-year term of office 52 Senators is due to expire on March 11, and elections were held on Thursday to fill these seats.
Four Senators – two each from the MQM and the PPP – were already elected unopposed from Sindh province, while the ECP postponed voting on four seats from Federally Administered Tribal Areas after a last-minute presidential ordinance which restricted FATA MNAs to just one vote instead of four votes each.
Polling began at 9:00 AM in the halls of the National and provincial assemblies and concluded at 4:00 PM.
However, polling time was extended to 8:00 PM in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly after it was suspended when opposition leaders accused MPAs from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of rigging.
According to unofficial results at the end of the day, all candidates of the ruling coalition in the KP assembly returned successful.
The PTI picked up six Senate seats from KP, marking its entrance into the Upper House of Parliament for the first time. The allied Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) also picked up one seat, with party chief Sirajul Haq returning successful. The PML-N picked up two seats from KP, while the Awami National Party (ANP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) and the PPP bagged one seat each.
In Punjab, the ruling PML-N bagged all 11 seats.
In Sindh, the PPP won five of the 7 seats on which election were held, while the MQM bagged the other two seats. Two members of the PPP and MQM each had already been elected unopposed from Sindh.
On the 12 seats on which polling was held in Balochistan, the ruling coalition emerged as the winner with the PML-N and the National Party (NP) taking three seats each. The PakhtunKhwa Milli Awami party (PkMAP) also took three seats, while a JUI-F and an independent candidate picked up one seat each.
Both seats from Islamabad Capital Territory were won by the PML-N, bringing it to a total of 26 seats in the Senate, according to unofficial results.
ECP Postpones Polling on FATA Seats
The Election Commission of Pakistan postponed Senate elections for FATA seats on Thursday after suspension of polling process since morning.
The ECP had consulted the Attorney General (AG) with regards to rescheduling it as Chief Election Commissioner Justice Sardar Raza Khan also chaired a high level meeting of ECP to come to a final decision.
Earlier today, FATA Returning Officer (RO) Usman Ali had filed a request to postpone the polling.
The suspension since morning came in the wake of a late night presidential ordinance which restricted MNAs from FATA to just one vote instead of four votes each.
Media Barred From Coverage
The Election Commission of Pakistan implemented restrictions on the media from covering the Senate elections. Journalists were first restricted from entering the KP then Punjab Assembly. They have also been barred from the National Assembly.
Members of the National and provincial assemblies were barred from carrying mobile phones or any electronic device that can take a picture during the Senate elections.
The Election Commission of Pakistan said it took the decision in order to protect the sanctity of the secret ballot and to discourage legislators from taking pictures of the ballot-paper to prove which way they have voted.
According to rules set down by the ECP, candidates who have returned successful will now have to first submit details of their electoral expenses to the ECP before the notification of their election is issued.
The ECP had set a limit of Rs1.5 million for electoral expenses.
Successful candidates are expected to take oath on March 12 when the 52 outgoing Senators finish their terms.
Pakistan’s Senate elections have in the past been plagued by horse-trading allegations and claims of legislators selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Much debate has taken place regarding whether the elections should be conducted with a show of hands or through secret ballot.
For the time being, elections were conducted via a secret ballot under Article 266 of the Constitution of Pakistan.