The Pakistan Peoples Party senses it can gain a majority in the Senate for the first time since 1970. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, however, is determined to throw a spanner in the works.
According to the government, the PML-N fears holding Senate elections in March 2012. The PML-N claims in response that their ‘Go Zardari Go’ movement has nothing to do with next year’s elections.
The PPP wants general elections after the Senate elections in March 2012; the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz wants them beforehand. The reason is that the current political set-up is likely to give the PPP an unprecedented edge in the Senate election. The PPP has 20-plus senators now, and the number is likely to reach 40 after the Senate polls.
The PML-N are considering mass resignations from the national and provincial assemblies, which would be the culmination of their ‘Go Zardari Go’ movement. However, the party is yet to chalk out a timeframe. “Resignations would come at the time when our ongoing movement reaches its peak,” Senator Mushahidullah Khan, the party’s information secretary, told The Express Tribune.
Khan did not rule out the possibility of PML-N resignations ahead of the Senate elections, but said it was beyond his party’s power “since it all depends on mobilisation of the masses.”
According to the constitution, the governor of a province must act upon the advice of the chief minister on dissolving an assembly. However, Senate elections can be held even if one provincial assembly is absent. Thus in a legal and constitutional sense, Senate elections can go ahead even if the PML-N triggers mass resignations; unrest on the streets, however, is another matter.
When asked about the fate of Senate elections in case PML-N resigns and the Election Commission has to hold by-elections, former law minister Senator SM Zafar said: “Senate elections cannot be rescheduled since members of the upper house retire on a given date.”
In March next year, half of the senators (50), 11 from the four provinces, four from FATA and two from the federal capital will retire.
According to an estimate the PPP would become the largest party in the Senate with 45-50 seats after the March elections. Jamat-e-Islami and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) would be the biggest losers.
The upcoming election would not only change political parties’ proportion in the upper house; it will also jeopardize career of many seasoned politicians. SM Zafar, Waseem Sajjad, Naeem Hussain Chattha, Tariq Azeem, Muhammad Ali Durrani, Gulshan Saeed, Jamal Lagheri, Nilofer Bakhtiar, Haroon Khan, and Professor Khursheed Ahmed are among those whose position as senators is believed to be under threat.
The strength of PML-Q in the Senate would drop from 21 to 4-6 and there would be tough competition among its members to get a party ticket. When asked about next term in the Senate, SM Zafar said: “If the party awards the ticket, I am ready to come again and serve.”
This election would also conclude a long journey by Professor Khursheed Ahmed that started in 1985, because JI has no representation in the National Assembly due to its boycott of general elections 2008.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2011.