Ceteris paribus, PML-N will control Senate

The election for 52 senate seats will be held in March 2018 while the tenure of the present government is till June 2018

All political parties wish to have elections on time except Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which demands holding elections earlier so that the PML-N may not become the single majority party with total of 37 seats in the house of 102 seats.

Even if the PML-N agrees to hold early elections, which it will not, the fate of the provincial assemblies hinges on the decision of their chief ministers.

There is a perception that if members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly resign the electorate for the Senate Election would not be complete; therefore the Senate elections would be postponed. But this entails risks for the PTI, as even Jamat-e-Islami the coalition partner of the PTI, wants elections to be held on time. Secondly, one cannot say with certainty that PTI would get the same number of seats in KP if not more.

The downside is that in the event Imran Khan is disqualified, PTI will not be in a position to take advantage of possible defections in the PML-N, or in the event Nawaz Sharif is barred from holding party office by the apex court, as he will not be able to lead the election campaign. Of course, Nawaz Sharif is on a collision course with the judiciary and establishment. In a public meeting in Abbottabad the other day, he said: “The only court he is answerable to is people’s court of 200 million… The general public is neither deaf nor blind and will carry out accountability of all those who denied justice to their leader who came to power through the ballot.” Earlier, deposed prime minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was furious over the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict on his rejected review petitions, and continued to accuse judiciary and military of a conspiracy.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had rejected the detailed verdict of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers review case, said a statement issued after a high-level party huddle in Islamabad.

We do not know about the outcome of the NAB references in the Accountability Court, but the confrontational mode of the PML-N leaders is fraught with danger and uncertainty

The communiqué said: “The verdict is an ‘awful’ example of prejudice, bigotry, anger and provocation; the language used in the detailed verdict was also not up to the judicial standards.” It further stated that reason behind the damages to the state was questionable judgments issued under ‘doctrine of necessity’ that allowed ‘bandits’ to rule the country.

No one in his party has the courage to tell him that he should come out of confrontational mode and be cautious while commenting on the superior courts. However, according to reports senior party leaders believed that Sharif was annoying the judiciary at a time when crucial cases are pending against him in the courts.

He is trying to convince the people that he has been wronged. PML-N leaders have been lambasting judiciary and establishment day in and day out. It was in this backdrop that during the hearing of Jahangir Tareen case, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked: “The court is displaying extreme patience with regards to what is being said about it outside, and judges should be appreciated.”

We do not know about the outcome of the NAB references in the Accountability Court, but the confrontational mode of the PML-N leaders is fraught with danger and uncertainty. However, with all other things remaining the same, next Senate Elections will be held in March 2018, and PML-N is poised to emerge as a single majority party in the Senate. In March 2018, 52 senators will retire of which 18belong to PPP, eight to PML-N, four each to MQM, PML-Q, five FATA/Independents while five senators of ANP.

Based on the formula of proportional representation, it is expected that in the next senate elections, PML-N will get 18 seats, PPP 8 seats, PTI six seats, ANP one seat, MQM four seats and JUI-F two seats, and 5 independents. After the Senate elections, the ruling PML-N will be in a strong position to sail through any legislative process without any difficulty. At present, PPP enjoys the top position with 26 senators, but after retirement of 18 senators and by winning 8 seats in the forthcoming senate elections, it would have total of 16 seats and would be second largest party in the Senate. The PML-N has 19 MPAs in the Balochistan Assembly’s 65 members, and is likely to bag at least six seats in Senate Election. Its allies are likely to win 6 seats in the Senate, which will put PML-N in a very comfortable position.

Four Fata members will also be elected and as per tradition they are likely to support a ruling party at the time of legislation. So four sitting and four newly elected Fata members will also lend support to the N-League.

It is interesting to note that the election for the 52 senators will be held in March 2018 while the tenure of the present government is till June 2018. If the situation remains the same and no untoward incident occurs; and furthermore, if there are no defections vis-a-vis forward block, the current Parliament will be the electoral college for the next election of 52 senators. After March 2018, the PML-N, as the custodian of the house, will still need support of other parties to make up the two-third majority for amending the Constitution. The ruling party will, however not face any problem in routine law making, money bills, or resolutions and motions in the National Assembly or Senate.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at mjamil1938@hotmail.com

Published in Daily Times, November 22nd 2017.