ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) received 144 nomination papers for March 3 Senate elections as the deadline to submit forms from provinces ended on Thursday. A total of 52 senators in the house of 104 are set to retire following the completion of their six-year term. The scrutiny of the nomination papers will be conducted by February 12. The aspirants will be allowed to withdraw their nomination papers until February 19, while polling will be held on March 3. A total of 34 nomination forms were submitted from Punjab, of which 21 were for general seats, five for reserved seats for women, five for technocrat seats and three for reserved seats for minorities. In Balochistan, 28 nomination forms were submitted. Out of the total, 15 forms were submitted against general seats, seven for reserved seats for technocrats and six for women-specific seats. A total of 47 nomination forms were submitted from Sindh, out of which 23 for general seats, 11 for reserved seats for technocrats, nine for women and four for reserved seats for minorities.In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), a total of 34 nomination forms were submitted. Of the total, 20 forms were submitted against general seats, six for reserved seats for technocrats and eight for reserved seats for women. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) named Chaudhry Sarwar and Andleeb Abbas from Punjab while Faisal Javed, Major (r) Fida Hussain, Azam Swati, Meher Taj Roghani, Khayal Zaman Orakzai and Ayub Afridi from KP.Sarwar has been nominated as party’s candidate on a general seat, while Andleeb Abbas on a reserved seat for women. Also, Ijaz Chaudhry managed to secure party’s nomination from Islamabad on a technocrat seat. Former finance minister Ishaq Dar is also among the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) candidates for the Senate polls.Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has retained the name of Senator Raza Rabbani in its list. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) both fractions, Dr Farooq Sattar camp and the Rabita committee members, filed nomination papers for their candidates separately.Meanwhile, PTI has announced to challenge the nomination papers of former finance minister and senior PML-N leader Ishaq Dar due to a pending corruption reference against him.The PTI announced that besides challenging Dar’s nomination forms, they would also challenge nominations of other PML-N leaders who have been alleged of committing corruption. A statement issued by party’s central media department says that Dar is not only involved in money laundering but also absconding from different courts in graft cases pending against him. PTI Chairman Imran Khan has tasked two senior party leaders, Chaudhry Sarwar and Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, to complete the necessary formalities and challenge Dar’s nomination.Given its majority, the PML-N is likely to clean sweep the Senate elections on all 12 seats (seven general seats, two each technocrats and women seats, and one minority seat) from Punjab. Independent observers believe that the PTI or any other opposition party is not in a position to win even a single Senate seat from Punjab and Islamabad.In the 371-seat Punjab Assembly, the PML-N enjoys an overwhelming majority with 309 MPAs, followed by PTI with 30 seats, PPP and PML-Q eight seats each, PML-Z three seats, JI, JUI-F, BNAP and PNML one seat each, and five independent MPAs.According to the formula, vote of at least 52 MPAs will be required to elect one senator on a general seat from Punjab. Even if the whole opposition, including independent MPAs, join hands, they would collectively have 58 votes and would only be able to secure a single seat in a scenario which is highly unlikely.Apparently, the biggest loser of the exercise will be the PPP whose 18 Senators, including Chairman Raza Rabbani, will be replaced by newcomers. Nine Senators from the ruling PML-N are also among those retiring but the party is expected to gain seats by the exercise despite the recent upheaval in Balochistan Assembly which saw PML-Q’s Abdul Quddus Bizenjo replacing PML-N’s Sanaullah Zehri for the chief minister slot. According to the ECP schedule for election on the capital’s two seats, the nomination papers can be submitted by February 10. February 12 is the last date for filing nomination papers for the four Senate seats from FATA.Published in Daily Times, February 9th 2018.