Saturday Mar 10 2018
Web Desk

Who will be Senate chairman? Consultations to secure votes continue

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: With the election to appoint the Senate chairman and deputy chairman due on Monday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have sped up consultations to appoint the candidate of their choice.

The Senate, after holding elections on half of its 104 seats on March 3, will meet on March 12 at 10am to elects the new leader of the Upper House of Parliament. 

On Saturday, a meeting of the PML-N and its allies was chaired by Nawaz Sharif in the federal capital. The meeting discussed the election of of the Upper House's top posts and devised a strategy accordingly.

National Party (NP) leader Hasil Bizenjo spoke with reporters following the meeting, stating that the authority to nominate a chairman and deputy chairman had been given to Nawaz. 

When asked about the possibility of Raza Rabbani being the nominee for the top post, Bizenjo replied: “Rabbani’s own party is not willing to nominate him.”

The NP leader added that apart from his party, the PML-N had the support of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and there had been no discussions in the meeting for appointing the chairman from Balochistan. “This is not an issue of Balochistan, rather an issue for the allied parties.”

PML-N Senator Mushaidullah Khan has claimed that the party has the support of 57-58 Senators. “Like Nawaz Sharif had said we will consult with our allied parties and announce names for the chairman and deputy chairman,” Khan told reporters.

Bizenjo further said that Nawaz would be announcing names either today or tomorrow (Sunday).

The opposition PPP is also carrying out consultative sessions over the appointment for the posts. 

However, a party meeting—also attended by Raza Rabbani—held today at the Zardari House in Lahore failed to decide on a name for the top slots. The matter has been postponed until tomorrow, sources said.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto has asked senior party leaders, including Khursheed Shah, for assistance on the matter. There might be three or more candidates for the chairman slot, party sources told Geo News.

Earlier in the day, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed his willingness to appoint a candidate from Balochistan for the top Senate post. 

Incumbent chairman Raza Rabbani, favoured by Nawaz but not Asif Ali Zardari to remain in the post, has also received strong support from JI and JUI-F, with both parties campaigning for his appointment.

Numbers game

The PML-N and independents backed by the party have 33 members in the Senate following the March 3 election. If you add that party’s alliances 5 senators of the PkMAP, 5 of the National Party, 4 of the JUI-F and 1 from Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), then the count goes up to 48.

The PML-N and its allies claim that they are ahead in the numbers game, and are certain of support from 5 senators of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), 2 out of 8 from FATA, 1 from ANP and 1 from Balochistan National Party (Mengal).

If the PML-N indeed gets support from these 9 senators, then the party will have a total of 57 members.

A day ago, both the factions of the MQM-P appeared willing to support PML-N. To cross the number 53, support from FATA senators will be important, who demanded the post of deputy chairman in their meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi earlier.

Today, the FATA senators will meet with PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif.

Senate session on March 12

President Mamnoon Hussain has summoned a session of the Senate on March 12, in which newly-elected senators will be sworn in at 10am.

Nomination papers for Senate chairman and deputy chairman will be submitted on the same day, in the Senate Secretariat.

The nomination papers will be reviewed at 2pm on March 12, and another session will be summoned at 4pm on the same day, where the chairman and deputy chairman will be elected.

Following the election, the Senate chairman will take oath, and will then swear in his deputy.

After the oath-taking, the session will be adjourned until further notice.