Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N wins big in Parliament’s upper house polls

PML-N, which already had 18 seats in Senate, has now become the largest party with a total of 33 seats.

Published - March 04, 2018 12:24 am IST - Islamabad

 Pakistani army soldiers and policemen stand guard near the provincial assembly during the Senate election in Peshawar on March 3, 2018.

Pakistani army soldiers and policemen stand guard near the provincial assembly during the Senate election in Peshawar on March 3, 2018.

Pakistan’s ruling PML-N of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday won 15 seats in Senate and became the largest party in the upper house of Parliament, according to provisional results.

Provincial and federal lawmakers voted to elect 52 Senators in the Senate elections that started at 9 am and continued till 4 pm, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Twelve seats each from Punjab and Sindh, 11 each from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, four from tribal region and two from federal capital territory were up for grabs due to retirement of 52 senators this month.

More than 130 candidates including those nominated by political parties and independent candidates were in the contest.

PML-N won 15 seats including 11 from Punjab and two each from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and federal capital territory.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) got 12 seats, including 10 from Sindh and two from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to become the second largest party.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan won six seats, which included five seats from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one from Punjab.

Independent candidates won 10 seats, including six from Balochistan and four from tribal regions.

Among the smaller parties, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal, National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami party each won two seats, Jamati-e-Islami, Muthahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Muslim League Functional each got one seat.

Among prominent losers included Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the godfather of Taliban, who got just four votes in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly.

Polling was peaceful and no untoward incident was reported.

PML-N, which already had 18 seats in Senate, has now become the largest party with a total of 33 seats. Its number is expected to swell as independent candidates might join the ruling party.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam took to social media to announce that PML-N had become the largest party in Senate.“PML-N now the single largest party in Senate as well,” she said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chief of PPP, in his twitter message, said it was victory of democracy. “Congratulations to all democrats. Another step forward for Pakistan’s young democracy, Senate elections taking place despite conspiracy theories,” he said.

PTI chief Imran Khan in his twitter message lambasted the election, which he said were rigged due to massive use of money. “Senate elections yet again witnessed shameful horse trading where MPAs bought and sold their votes as country witnessed this sale of their ‘elected’ people to highest bidder. This shows moral decline of our political class. In which Western democracy does such a sale happen?” he said.

Strict security measures had been taken outside buildings of Parliament house and the four provincial assemblies which were declared as the polling stations.

Senate has 104 members elected for six years but half of them retire every three years at the completion of their term. The 52 Senators retiring this month were elected in 2012. The other 52 were elected in 2015 and will serve until 2021.

New Senators are elected indirectly by provincial and national assemblies through proportional representation.

The ECP had given all controlling officers powers of magistrate who can suspend the electoral process in case of irregularity.

Earlier, officials said that 46 senators will be elected by the four provincial assemblies, two by the National Assembly, and four by the lawmakers from tribal areas.

Total 135 candidates contested, including 20 from PPP, 14 from Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), 13 from PTI and four from Pak Sarzameen Party.

There were 65 independent candidates including 23 from the PML-N. They cannot use PML-N name and platform due to a recent Supreme Court verdict. However, they are supported by the PML-N and will formally join it after the elections.

There were reports and allegations of massive use of money and influence ahead of elections because Senators are elected by provincial and federal lawmakers and due to proportional representation, even a single vote can make a huge difference.

In Balochistan, a candidate needed just nine votes to become senator while in the biggest province of Punjab, 47 votes are needed to elect a senator. The trickiest situation was in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where 10 members of the National Assembly would elect four senators.

Almost all political parties had expressed dismay at the election laws of Senate and promised to improve them. “There is broad consensus that system of election for Senate is flawed and we need to improve it,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said ahead of polls.

Imran Khan had said his party would work to introduce direct elections for senators to root out corruption and use of money.

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