ISLAMABAD: The ruling party, along with its allies, will be contesting today for the top posts of the Upper House of Parliament against the opposition parties and independents from Balochistan.
The Senate session began a little after 10am today. The first order of business was the administering of oath to the newly-elected senators by presiding officer Senator Sardar Yaqub Khan. Only one of the total 52, Senator Ishaq Dar, could not take oath as he is in London on medical grounds.
Later in the day, the election for the chairman and deputy chairman of Senate will be held via secret ballot.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and its allies National Party (NP), Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), PML-Functional and Awami National Party have agreed on PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq as chairman and PkMAP’s Usman Kakar as deputy chairman.
A formal announcement was made by PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan after a meeting chaired by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have rallied behind Sadiq Sanjrani, an independent Senator-elect from Balochistan, for the slot of Senate chairman.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto confirmed the development on Sunday and added that the party would field Saleem Mandviwalla for the deputy chairman seat.
The PTI also threw its weight behind Sanjrani on Sunday. The development came after Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo held a meeting with PTI Chairman Imran Khan at his Bani Gala residence along with independent senators from the province.
The PPP and PTI had given Bizenjo the authority to bring forth a joint candidate for the slots with the help of newly-elected independent senators from Balochistan, which he leads.
Meanwhile, Bizenjo also met leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Sunday to get the support of their five senators.
Sanjrani is also said to have the support of independent senators elected from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Moreover, a meeting between Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq in Islamabad today failed to decide on joint support for a candidate.
The nomination papers for Senate chairman and deputy chairman were submitted to the Senate Secretariat around noon.
The nomination papers will be reviewed at 2pm after which another session will be summoned at 4pm, when 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.
The PML-N and independents backed by the party have 33 members in the Senate following the March 3 election.
If one adds the party’s allies — five senators of the PkMAP, five of NP, four of JUI-F and one from PML-Functional — 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 five senators of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), two of eight from FATA and one each from the Awami National Party and Balochistan National Party (Mengal).
If the PML-N indeed gets support from these nine senators, then the party will have a total of 57 members. However, the PPP also appears confident that it will get votes from the required number of senators to get Sanjrani elected.
A total of 53 votes are needed to win the posts.