Senate election 2021: Polling underway for 37 seats in NA, provincial assemblies

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ISLAMABAD : Pakistan is all set for the high-stakes Senate polls today  with polling scheduled from 9am to 5pm.

Lawmakers are casting votes in one of the country’s most hotly contested Senate elections where the transparency of the electoral process has become a key issue.

The MPs are voting on 37 vacant seats of the Senate with 11 senators elected unopposed from Punjab. Now the polling is being held for 12 seats each of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 of Sindh and two of the federal capital.

MPAs from the three provincial assemblies are casting their vote for the candidates fielded from Balochistan, KP and Sindh, while MNAs will choose the representative from the federal capital.

The results are expected to be announced at 6pm for Islamabad seats while in other assemblies the winning candidates would be announced around 7pm.

Controversies around the Senate polls

The government has been accusing the Opposition of being involved in illegal activity by using money to gain votes, while the Opposition is blaming the ruling PTI for raising the open ballot issue because it is not sure of its lawmakers’ loyalties.

The blame-game became intense Tuesday when a video of Ali Haider Gilani, son of Pakistan Democratic Movement’s Senate candidate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, emerged in which he was allegedly telling the PTI MPAs how to discard votes.

The PPP leader, however, has admitted that he was in contact with the PTI members who had approached him to seek help.

Another audio of Sindh Minister Nasir Hussain Shah was widely shared on social media in which he was allegedly talking to PTI MPAs regarding the Senate election. The minister, however, has denied he ever talked to them and referred the matter to Ali Gilani.

Gilani vs Shaikh

An epic encounter is expected in the National Assembly for the Islamabad seat where the PPP stalwart and PDM candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani are contesting against ruling party candidate Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

The current strength of the National Assembly is 341 (one seat – NA-75 is vacant) and the ruling party candidate apparently enjoys the support of 180 MNAs.

Shaikh’s contender Gilani enjoys the support of 161 MNAs, including 83 of the PML-N, 55 of the PPP and 15 of MMA and the rest of like-minded parties like the ANP, BNP and three out of total four independents.

Gilani has run a robust campaign. Since the balloting is secret, Gilani enjoys the advantage of hidden support from MNAs, who have been his former colleagues, friends or those who are annoyed with the government.

As for the experience of connectivity with the parliamentarians and as a politician, Gilani visibly stands head and shoulders above Shaikh. When contacted, Gilani said, “Democratic forces” were with him.

On the other hand, Shaikh, who could rightly be called the opening batsman of PM Imran Khan, is a sitting federal minister and his strength mainly lies in the personal numbers of the PTI and allies in the House.

The PDM also fears that the prime minister’s promise of development funds for MNAs could impact on the Senate elections.

Will PTI members vote for Vawda and Abro?

Another close contest is expected in Sindh where Faisal Vawda, another sitting federal minister, is contesting against the might of the PPP, which has fielded candidates from all 11 seats including seven general, two technocrat and two reserved seats for women.

The PTI has a strength of 30 MPAs in the House whereas 14 are from the Grand Democratic Alliance and 21 from the MQM.

The local chapters of the PTI have revolted against the selection of candidates with several party members openly saying they would not vote for them.

The PTI is likely to win a major chunk of seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa whereas the Balochistan Awam Party and allies look dominant in Balochistan.

Rind’s son withdraws in favour of BAP

PTI Balochistan Chapter chief Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind’s son Tuesday withdrew his candidature from the Senate elections in favour of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).

Announcing the decision, Yar Muhammad Rind said his son, Sardar Khan Rind had withdrawn his candidature after an impression that it could benefit the opposition parties during the polls, reports a local news channel.

Sardar Khan Rind had filed his papers as an independent candidate from Balochistan. Lauding his decision, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal said the step would help strengthen the coalition government in the province.

“This is a good decision for the coalition government and will help us in contesting the Senate polls in a better way,” he said, adding that Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind had never worked for his personal interest. He further thanked the PTI lawmakers for supporting the BAP candidates.