THINGS settle in a restless manner. The past week has left Islamabad exhausted. The bitter fight over Senate tickets continues to wreak havoc on PTI and PML-N even as the fate of the secret ballot lies in the hands of Supreme Court justices. There is a slow motion frenzy. Everything rushes to confrontation in the Senate as everything hangs in the air until the court decides how the election will go. Amidst all of this, the PTI vs. PDM battle royale grand finale is simmering on the sidelines awaiting its turn on March 26 once the Senate brawl ends.
But punches were thrown even before the brawl began. PTI has been the hardest hit by internal conflicts. The party’s first fault line in the Senate ticket race between high-profile aspirants and lesser-known party loyalists was resolved firmly by Prime Minister Imran Khan before it got really ugly. As reported in this column last week, the prime minister had decided that people who were already working as special advisers or assistants would not get the ticket. This automatically removed people like Babar Awan, lawyer Shahzad Akbar and Shahbaz Gill from the list. However, the second line of divide between a long line of loyalists and workers broke like a weak artery once the tickets were announced.
Grievances are the natural result of such selection. The ruling party had decided that instead of formally asking candidates for tickets and filing application fees, etc., a parliamentary party committee would make the final decision. This council, chaired by the prime minister himself, included senior party leaders from all provinces. The board deliberated on the names without specifying the criteria used to select the person. When the names were announced, an uproar erupted in Balochistan and Sindh (and a slightly muted uproar in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
In the end, many changes were made and tickets redistributed. It was an undeclared admission that PTI’s parliamentary council had made bad choices and bad decisions. At the very least, the ticket reward issue has been mismanaged; at the most, he will let a few sections of the party simmer with discontent.
An example of this discontent was the award of a Senate ticket to Federal Minister Faisal Vawda. Pakistan’s Election Commission is hearing a complaint against him for failing to disclose that he had dual citizenship on the day he submitted his papers to contest the 2018 elections. Vawda has a temperamental personality that often does not win him back. ‘friends. At a cabinet meeting, he got into a fight with another minister and had to be physically taken out of the room before things got ugly. But he is very close to the Prime Minister. When Vawda got into trouble after putting a military boot on the table on a live talk show, government sources said the prime minister was on his side. He survived.
But almost. The ECP case seems worrying. The only way for him to survive again is to enter the Senate. He had to. The important voices in the cabinet were not fascinated by the decision to grant him a ticket, but the Prime Minister again backed him up.
But will he stand alongside his ally who runs the house Vawda is heading to? Even if the Supreme Court allows a public ballot in senatorial elections, the process of electing the president of the upper house of parliament will be conducted by secret ballot. The problem is brewing. There is pressure within the PTI for the president to be from their party now since he will be the largest party in the Senate. Some within the party argue that current President Sadiq Sanjrani had a three-year term and also survived a no-confidence vote and that his BAP party should now let the PTI take over the chair. There are at least four candidates for the presidency of the Senate of the PTI. Three of them are already members of the House while the fourth is in the process of being elected. There was a fifth contender who was actively pushing for this, but people found out. He didn’t even get the ticket. Lesson: don’t show your cards too early.
And then there is Yousuf Raza Gilani from PPP. If he were to win from Islamabad one way or another it would require at least ten people from the treasury benches in the National Assembly to vote for him, he would almost certainly be the PDM candidate for president of the Senate. People in the opposition appreciate that. A senior leader, when asked what might happen if Gilani was named president, laughed and said the secret ballot would help Gilani because the PTI and BAP are already complaining against each other.
In fact, the opposition says it could take an extra seat or two in the KP because the PDM is coordinating its votes. Given the complex voting system, the opposition believes that a carefully planned, coordinated and calculated vote by its KP members could squeeze a few seats (one leader even said that at best they could get a seat too. for women). . In their assessment, if they get two more, they could eventually hit the magic number 51 in the house of 100, thus retaining control of the Senate.
It’s a long shot. And the government has strong backers. Secret ballots tend to favor the wealthy and powerful. The government finished half of its term this month and the Senate elections are seen as the dividing point between the first half and second half of the PTI term. Red zone officials expect changes after the senatorial elections, and after the long march of the March 26 PDMs. A cabinet shuffle is long overdue and some of the newly elected senators may find their place in Cabinet. It is now a race towards 2023 and the politics that will define who plays which cards to have a real chance of winning in the next elections. PDM leaders say their policy is also changing in light of the situation, and their leaders have learned from the mistakes of the past four months.
Things calm down in a hectic manner.
Posted in Dawn, February 18, 2021
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