PTI candidate Sadiq Sanjrani won another term as the Senate chairman on Friday in a blow to the joint opposition — despite the latter having a majority in the Upper House.
The opposition challenged the result of the election after it was announced that seven votes cast in favour of opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani were rejected.
However, presiding officer Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah overruled their objection, saying the seven votes were rejected because they were not stamped correctly. Another vote was rejected because it had been cast in favour of both the candidates.
With a total of eight votes rejected, Gilani received 42 valid votes, while Sanjrani won the election after bagging 48 votes. In total, 98 senators voted in the election.
JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was the first senator to be called to make his choice.
Shah, who cast the last vote, announced around 4:40 that all 98 senators present in the house had cast their votes after which the counting began at 5pm.
After being declared the winner, Sanjrani took the oath of his office and is now presiding over the election for the Senate deputy chairman.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (PPP) and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri (JUI-F) were fielded by the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement as its joint candidates for the posts of chairman and deputy chairman, respectively.
The government had already announced that Sanjrani will be its candidate for the office for another term. On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan nominated Senator Mirza Mohammad Afridi — a billionaire from erstwhile Fata — for the post of the deputy chairman.
Shah, who earlier administered the oath to all 48 newly elected members of the Upper House, read out the names of the candidates contesting for the positions as well as the senators sponsoring them.
He also directed that a body be formed comprising equal number of senators from the government and the opposition to investigate the matter of “hidden” cameras found earlier in the session.
“Recovered items like cameras and otherwise, will be secured and sealed till the final disposal of the matter,” he said.
The presiding officer further said a new polling booth had been established and asked representatives from both sides to inspect them.
Though the opposition enjoys a clear majority in the Senate to win both the seats, political pundits say it is going to be a close contest and any deviation from party policy and wastage of votes in secret ballot can translate into an upset.
Back in August 2019, Senate Chairman Sanjrani had survived no-confidence vote when only 50 votes were cast in favour of the opposition’s motion against the 53 needed in the 104-member House for the move to succeed. Forty five senators had voted against the motion and five votes were rejected. Interestingly, earlier when the resolution was moved for the no-confidence motion, 64 opposition members had supported it.
After the Senate elections on March 3, the House strength has been reduced to 100 senators and now it consists of 99 senators, as Ishaq Dar is in self-exile and has not taken oath as a senator.
Now, the senators of the ruling coalition include 27 members of the PTI, 12 of Balochistan Awami Party, three of MQM, three independents and one each of PML-Q and PML-F – which is part of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).
The opposition senators include 21 of PPP, 17 of PML-N, excluding Ishaq Dar who has not taken oath of the office, five of JUI-F, two each of ANP, BNP-Mengal, PkMAP and National Party and one of Jamaat-i-Islami. The opposition collectively has 52 members in the House excluding Mr Dar, against 47 senators belonging to the ruling coalition. As the Jamaat-i-Islami has decided to abstain from voting, the difference between the vote bank of the government and the opposition has narrowed down to four.