Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has completed the scrutiny of the candidates who filed for the senate election but the crucial factor of voting for the election hangs in balance as the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) is hearing the presidential reference in this respect. The matter is required to be cleared much before the election date of 3 March 2021. The ECP put up a robust defence of the prevailing mode of electing the members of the senate though the SC bench appears to have not been convinced by their arguments. The election is scheduled to be held for 48 seats of the Senate, for which polling would be held.
The ECP had received a total of 170 nomination papers. It rejected 25 of them on different grounds whereas three candidates have withdrawn from the race. Since the candidature of Mushahidullah Khan of the PML-N has become infructous after his death, the total number of valid nomination papers with the ECP is now 141. The opposition parties, which have decided to jointly contest the elections from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) suffered a setback due to rejection of the nomination papers of a sitting PMLN senator and former information minister Pervaiz Rasheed in Lahore. PDM, however, met a success in Islamabad where the returning officer accepted the nomination papers of PPP’s Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani for a general seat and rejected the objections to his candidature that had been filed by a covering candidate for federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who is a nominee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
In Lahore, the returning officer rejected the nomination papers of Pervaiz Rasheed over his failure to clear outstanding dues of the Punjab House in Islamabad where he had been staying from time to time for the past 10 years. Refuting the charges, Pervaiz Rasheed announced that he would challenge the rejection of his papers before the election tribunal. He mentioned that bogus claims of booking of Punjab House rooms had been created against him to keep him out of the Senate race. He claimed that he had carried cash to pay for these “bogus bills” worth Rs.9.5 million but no Punjab House official was available to receive it from him.
Meanwhile, PMLN’s Azam Nazeer Tarar and PTI’s Syed Ali Zafar are set to be elected unopposed against two seats of technocrats from Punjab after withdrawal of papers by a third candidate, Attaullah Khan. The candidate withdrew from the race after objections were raised that he had been serving as an engineering contractor for some government projects and had not completed the two-year mandatory break period to qualify for contesting for a public office. For two women seats from Punjab, there are three candidates in the run. They are Saadia Abbasi and Saira Afzal Tarar of the PMLN and Zarqa Soharwardi of the PTI. Saadia Abbasi is the sister of the former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Similarly, in Balochistan Saeed Ahmed Hashmi of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Kamran Murtaza of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUIF) are set to return unopposed on the two technocrat seats from the province if things go according to plan. As many as eight candidates had submitted papers to contest for the two technocrat seats from the province. However, after rejection of the papers of five candidates, now three candidates have been left in the race. Besides Saeed Ahmed Hashmi and Kamran Murtaza, Sajid Tareen of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP) has also filed the papers for the technocrats’ seats. However, according to the agreed seat adjustment formula, Sajid Tareen will withdraw his nomination papers and would contest on general seat where his nomination papers have been accepted. If the election tribunal does not accept papers of the rejected candidates, Saeed Ahmed Hashmi and Kamran Murtaza would be elected unopposed.
A total of 51 candidates had submitted their nomination papers for the 12 seats in the Senate elections from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with 27 of them belonging to the ruling PTI. However, the ECP rejected nomination papers of 11 candidates on different grounds leaving 40 candidates in the race.
Sajjad Hussain Turi, presently PTI’s chief whip in the upper house, is among those whose papers were rejected for the general seat. An ECP spokesperson said Sajjaf Hussain Turi did not appear before the commission, which led to his disqualification. Turi later mentioned that he did not pursue his nomination papers. Another PTI candidate Aurangzeb Khan also did not appear before the returning officer while Najab Gul’s papers were rejected for lacking proposer and seconder. On women seats, four of seven PTI ticket holders did not appear before the returning officer, which led to the rejection of their papers. On technocrats’ seat, candidatures of PTI ticket aspirant Hamidul Haq, JUI-F’s Zuhair Ali, PMLN’s Rehan Alam and independence candidate Nasrullah Khan were rejected for lacking the required experience.
In Islamabad, the nomination papers of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani were accepted after the commission rejected the objection to his papers that had been raised by a PTI-backed candidate Fareed Rehman, who is actually the covering candidate for federal Finance Minister Dr. Shaikh. The PTI’s candidate had claimed that Yousuf Raza Gilani had concealed his conviction in the nomination papers and that he had been disqualified for life from contesting the elections to the parliament. The commission, however, rejected the objection, quoting Article 63 of the Constitution, according to which the bar was only for a period of five years.
A one-to-one contest between PTI’s Dr. Hafeez Shaikh and former Prime Minister Gilani is expected on the only general seat from the capital. Dr. Shaikh, who is presently serving in the federal cabinet, had previously served in the same position when Gilani was the prime minister. The competition between Gilani and Shaikh has acquired significance because of the party position in the National Assembly where the ruling alliance has a majority of just 20 votes. The PDM leadership believes that Gilani can secure the seat if he runs his campaign seriously as there are reports that many in the ruling alliance are unhappy over the leadership’s decision to award ticket to Dr. Shaikh, who is considered an outsider and known as “parachuter” in the PTI ranks. In Karachi, the ECP approved nomination papers of a total of 35 candidates for 11 seats in three different categories. The PPP led the number of nominations with 14 nominees for 13 candidates, followed by PTI with 12 and MQM Pakistan with 10 nominations.
ECP also rejected nominations of Neelam Arshad from the PTI. Faisal Vawda appeared at Election Commission Sindh office where his nomination papers were accepted. During his appearance, the PTI and PPP workers also chanted slogans against each other. Meanwhile, four Senate election candidates contesting for technocrats’ and women’s reserved seats — two each — in Punjab have been elected unopposed.
According to the Punjab Election Commissioner, PTI’s Ali Zafar and PML-N’s Azam Nazir Tarar won the technocrats’ seats. The PTI’s candidate Attaullah Khan withdrew his nomination papers for the technocrats’ seat. The PTI’s Dr. Zarqa and PML-N’s Sadia Abbasi were also elected unopposed from Punjab for the women’s seats. The province’s election commissioner said that Abbasi was the covering candidate and was declared successful after Saira Tarar did not appear for her paper’s scrutiny. TW