- Expectations are rising among the electorate as lawmakers are making efforts to grab favours from the respective ruling parties and individuals aspiring for Senate positions
With Senate polls around the corner; March 5, “business tycoons and people with black money” have geared up efforts to “buy individuals” contesting for Senate seats, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Expectations are rising sky-high among the electorate as lawmakers are making efforts to grab favours from the respective ruling parties and individuals aspiring for Senate positions. Demands are being made from jobs and development funds to hard cash– even from those who have been allotted party tickets, sources confided to Pakistan Today.
Though things are calm in Sindh Assembly where the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership has struck a power-sharing deal with the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), temperature is climbing in the other three provinces – Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Balochistan Assembly is the most complex house where no one is certain of the Senate election result due to the role of Baloch tribal chiefs who have a significant role in running the government as the powerful Sardar Sanaullah Zehri heads the majority party –Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Political workers claim that the rate for a vote has touched a new record in the province as MPAs are demanding Rs 30 million to Rs 50 million for each vote.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Quetta on Wednesday to woo back the party MPAs support for the party’s ticket holders for Senate polls, however he has reportedly failed in achieving the objective.
A PML-N Balochistan senior leader told Pakistan Today that due to the award of party tickets to “strangers”, the party lawmakers were angry and refused to meet Sharif during his Quetta visit.
“Despite repeated invitations, out of 22 members of Balochistan Assembly, 10 lawmakers did not appear for meeting the PM. Even the PML-Q members refused attending the meeting, stating that rather than bargaining with the prime minister, they would prefer selling their votes to independents,” the source added.
“In order to satisfy the angry party lawmakers, the premier today announced Rs 5 billion package for Quetta. However, the gesture has failed to work,” the source added.
The “faulty” award of party tickets have increased the chances of horse trading as the PML-N has awarded party tickets on recommendations of Sardar Sanaullah, badly ignoring the party’s staunch and senior leaders like former senator Khuda-e-Noor, Naeebullah Barzai, party’s provincial general-secretary, Barat Khan Mirani, the party’s provincial senior-vice president Aalauddin Kakar, party’s spokesman Anwarul Haq Kakar, Malik Zahir Kakar and many others.
The PML-N is likely to win around six to seven seats but it has awarded nine party tickets to candidates which has further complicated the scenario.
Those who managed to win party tickets included Sardar Yaqub Nasir, Amir Afzal Mandokhel, Mir Nematullah Zehri (general seats), Shahbaz Durrani (technocrat), Dhanaish Kumar (minorities) and Kalsoom Perveen (women).
Party leaders criticise the award of party tickets, saying the sincere and committed party workers had been ignored while “favourites” had been accommodated by the party’s top leadership.
A PML-N leader told Pakistan Today that Amir Afzal Mondikhail had been awarded the party ticket despite having no role in party affairs and rather he had been obliged due to his father, Subedar Mandokhail, who was a contractor of the Punjab government.
The PML-N leader added that Zehri also had his younger brother Nematullah Zehri accommodated while he also got a ticket for his brother-in-law Shahbaz Durrani on a technocrat seat.
Moreover, the party leader added, the party’s ticket for woman seat was awarded to Kalsoom Perveen, who was still serving her term as senator on BNP-Awami ticket. “Kalsoom Parveen has been awarded ticket on recommendation of Senator Ishaq Dar. She had leaked to the prime minister the details of negotiations taking place between Jirga led by Sirajul Haq and Rehman Malik with PTI chief Imran Khan,” the source claimed.
In the meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly is possibly the most prone house to horse-trading where angry lawmakers from the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have formed two separate groups.
Though there was already a group unhappy with the party’s decision on cabinet berths, another group has emerged recently to raise their voice against party’s violation of ‘principles’.
However, the party leadership is trying to counter their move by settling the election with the opposition. Rumours are rife that the affluent independent candidates were luring in the angry lawmakers of all parties and the rate per vote is as high as Rs 20 million.
A source in the PTI told Pakistan Today that KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had been tasked by party chief Imran Khan to clinch a deal with the allies as well as the opposition parties to curb horsetrading as the party was already facing severe internal cracks.
“It seems that the second group emerged after the parliamentary board did not award ticket to the party’s provincial president Azam Swati. It is quite strange that Swati has been refused a party ticket despite massive funding for organising the forefront of the party’s protests,” the source said, adding that the board’s decision had triggered a new controversy.
However, Swati denied the fact, stating that he had himself withdrawn his application as his application for vote verification was now set to be entertained by NADRA.
Swati confirmed that Khattak was making efforts for seat adjustment with the opposition parties even sacrificing its own share. “However, if this bid fails, all parties would have to suffer as smugglers and drug dealers would be cashing in to buy votes,” he added.
He said that the PTI and allied parties had 71 votes and they needed only 60 votes for four general seats. “Rest we will share with our allies,” he said, adding that in the past, it was the government which used to purchase votes.
However, he said it was strange for many as this time around, the ruling party was facing tough time as it was against horse-trading. “It is strange that our honesty is proving to be a liability,” he added.
Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) is also in a tight corner in KP as the party lawmakers are unhappy over the party’s decision not to allocate the party’s ticket to Senator Gul Naseeb.
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman has awarded party ticket to his half brother, Lutfur Rehman, against the only seat the party is expected to win.
Mohammad Khan Sherani, a rebel party leader with strong political support, was backing Gul Naseeb but the angry senator refused submitting his application against a general or technocrat seat.
The PML-N, which may win a seat in KP, has also ignored its two heavy weights of the province – Amir Muqam and Pir Sabir Shah, and rather awarded a ticket to a retired army officer, Lt-Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi, whose only strength is his closeness to the PM. This angered Pir Sabir Shah who refused to file his papers as the covering candidate of the Tirmizi. This also has left many lawmakers unhappy.
In Punjab Assembly, situation is fluid given PTI’s non-political approach. The ruling party is set to clinch all the 11 Senate seats if vote selling business fails to thrive.
PTI could have grabbed at least one Senate seat if it could get support from other opposition parties, however, the boycott by PTI has left the government sail through easily.
The only threat faced by PML-N was PPP which also failed to play the South Punjab card as the PML-N government ignored all the party leaders from Southern belt. Out of 11 party tickets, three tickets were awarded to strangers who were not even citizens of Punjab.
This has left the South Punjab MPAs in shock but the PPP has also made the same blunder as it has awarded the party ticket to another vocal party member from Upper Punjab, Nadeem Afzal Gondal. Though Gondal is diehard party loyalist, yet he would fail to get the attention of PML-N MPAs from South Punjab.
The two PML-N leaders from Karachi who have been awarded party tickets from Punjab included Nehal Hashmi and Mushahidullah Khan. Nehal Hashmi is the general secretary of the party’s Sindh chapter while PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan has also been given the ticket on a general seat from Punjab.
Another name awarded ticket from Punjab is of former Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Ordnance Factory Chairman Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qayyum Khan. Qayyum had lost in the last general elections from Chakwal.
The award of ticket on general seats to former MPA Chaudhry Tanveer and Dr Ghaus Niazi has also raised eyebrows. Tanveer was convicted in Supreme Court attack case and his election may trigger a row with the judiciary.
Dr Ghaus Niazi is the president of the party’s Khushab chapter and politically is “nobody”. Dr Niazi had developed special relations with the Sharif brothers when they were living in exile in Saudi Arabia as he had been a frequent visitor to the kingdom, where many of his family members were residing.
The six sitting senators who are retiring in March and have been given tickets again include Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, Najma Hameed and Sajid Mir from Punjab while Sardar Yaqub Nasir is from Balochistan.
Sitting senators who been dropped from Senate include Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal Gujjar and Syed Zafar Ali Shah.
Though Gujjar also a candidate for the slot of governor Punjab along with Chaudhry saud Majeed but the exit of loudmouth Zafar Ali Shah reflects that the party chief is in no mood to allow any sort of criticism within the party.
Another negative norm adopted by the PML-N leadership is the award of party ticket to two strangers to the capital city. Though the PML-N has already lost in NA-48 twice, its popularity is set to suffer more as none of the individuals awarded tickets to represent the capital city is local.
PML-N Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra is originally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who has been given a ticket on a general seat from the federal capital. Tando Allahyar’s former Nazim Dr Raheela Magsi has been given a ticket for the reserved seat for women in Islamabad.