Top seat, Upper House, please!


PPP eyes Senate crown for Malik


  • PPP, allies likely to win 43 seats in Senate with Malik likely to take hold of Senate chairman’s slot if it can secure additional seven votes other than his party’s


With the Senate election approaching fast, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari is working to regain the Senate chairman’s slot and PPP Senator Rehman Malik has been tasked to win maximum support in this regard as he will most likely be the party’s nominee for the prime slot.

As many as 52 members of the Upper House of the Parliament are set to retire in March, triggering a close battle between the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as both may be left with similar numbers.

PPP’s number in Senate is most likely to shrink from 40 to 26 while the PML-N is all set to replace PPP as the largest party with around 28 members. Zardari’s party will be not far behind and is expected to emerge as the second-biggest force in the House. However, smaller parties will decide on the race for the Senate crown.

A well-placed source in PPP told Pakistan Today that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had proposed to the PPP chief to strike a power sharing deal under which the PPP’s nominee will be elected as the Senate deputy chairman while PML-N will keep the chairman’s slot.

In return, the source added, the PPP will have to assure Sharif that it will not create hurdles in any lawmaking for the ruling party in Senate.

“However, following an in-house discussion, the PPP chief played a political move and Rehman Malik was sent to London to secure a power sharing deal with MQM. PPP has successfully lured MQM into an alliance which will also be intact in the Senate,” the source said.

“The decision to nominate Malik for Senate has been taken by the party’s co-chairman, keeping in view his art of luring opponents into an alliance. Moreover, it will also cement Zardari’s grip over party affairs given a good chemistry between the two,” the source added.

The source said that initially a proposal was floated to nominate Sherry Rehman for Senate but later it was informed that she could not assume a public office before the expiry of a two-year mandatory ban after serving as US ambassador.

“The proposal was aimed at pleasing PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as Sherry Rehman is considered to be very close to him. However, later the idea was dropped due to the legal hitch.”

After being given a green signal, Malik has already clinched a deal with the MQM chief Altaf Hussain and the Karachi-based political outfit has also pledged support for the top slot.

An MQM leader told Pakistan Today that he believed that if MQM joined the Sindh government, it will also support the PPP nominee in Senate, however, there was no formal commitment in this regard.

MQM’s strength in Senate is seven members right now. Although three of its members are set to retire in March, the party is all set to win four more seats. Following the deal with PPP, MQM’s number of seats in Senate will increase to eight.

Moreover, PPP also has the support of Awami National Party (ANP), which will have at least six senators. The two remaining senators of Balochistan-National Party (Awami) would also lend their support to the PPP nominee.

Furthermore, Zardari has already secured a deal with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who is also retiring in March. PML-Q will have five members in the House after Shujaat’s retirement; its seats will reduce to four.

The scenario will take the coalition tally to 45. PPP will need at least 53 votes to win Senate top slot in a house of 104. It will leave PPP to win another seven votes to clinch the top slot in the Senate.