Senate elections: Political parties shortlist potential candidates as lobbying intensifies for tickets

PTI nominates Hafeez Shaikh, Sania Nishtar for Senate elections

ISLAMABAD: Political parties on Friday shortlisted potential candidates for the upcoming Senate elections, which are to be held on March 3, as per the announcement of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Sources told Pakistan Today that Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Mohammad Ali Saif met Prime Minister Imran Khan and has been invited to join the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). They said that the MQM-P leader is likely to get the ruling party’s ticket from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) or Sindh and will be rewarded with a cabinet slot once he is elected to the upper house of the parliament.

Saif would be the third senator to switch his party as Dr Ashok Kumar of the National Party (NP) and Sitara Ayaz of the Awami National Party (ANP) have already joined the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and have been awarded tickets from Balochistan.

Similarly, Abdul Qadir would be PTI’s candidate from Balochistan, where the party is a position to win a single seat. He is a property tycoon who moved to Lahore a decade ago.

According to the party sources, PTI Balochistan President Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind has strongly opposed this candidature. PTI has six MPAs from Balochistan, and only needs 7.5 votes for the general seat, which it can manage easily by supporting its ally, BAP, on technocrats and women’s seats. Sources said that Rind has summoned a party meeting in Quetta, wherein he is likely to oppose Qadir’s nomination.

The party’s Secretary-General Saifullah Niazi, Dr Zarqa and Barrister Ali Zafar will be the party’s candidates from Punjab. The party’s candidates for the remaining seats from Punjab will be announced later.

It has been learnt that the party’s parliamentary board has finalised Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Fauzia Arshad from Islamabad while Dr Babar Awan and Amir Mughal are also being considered. Babar may contest from Punjab and a final decision in this regard would be taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

MNA Faisal Wavda or Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif are set to contest from Sindh on the only general seat available for the PTI and Saifullah Abro will be the PTI candidate for the technocrat seat. The women’s seat is likely to be given to the MQM-P.

Moreover, in a series of tweets, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry also disclosed PTI’s candidates for the upcoming elections. The complete list of candidates who have been confirmed by Fawad so far is as follows:

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh: Islamabad

Fauzia Arshad: Islamabad

Faisal Vawda: Sindh

Saifullah Niazi: Punjab

Dr Zarqa: Punjab

Barrister Ali Zafar: Punjab

Abdul Qadir: Balochostan

Shibli Faraz: KP

Mohsin Azeez: KP

Dost Mohammad: KP

Sania Nishtar: KP

Farzana: KP

Under the given schedule, candidates will be able to submit their nomination papers between February 12 and 13, while the list of candidates will be released on February 14.

In this regard, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Secretary-General (SG) Nayyar Hussain Bukhari expressed concerns about the schedule of the Senate elections, deeming it difficult to file nomination papers within two days and wrote to the election commission after consultation with the party’s leadership and therein asked the electoral body whether it will be possible to scrutinise the candidates within the deadline.

He appealed to the chief election commissioner (CEC) to take appropriate measures in view of the situation.

The PPP parliamentary board interviewed some of its candidates in Sindh Chief Minister’s House on Friday. The party is likely to submit its nominations in the next few days.

A source in the PPP told Pakistan Today that former law minister Farooq H Naek, Taj Haider, Karim Khwaja and Shahadat Awan, Salim Mandviwalla, Jam Mahtab, Abdul Ghani Talpur, Sadiq Memon and Sherry Rehman are likely to be awarded the election tickets by PPP.

The PPP has already asked Raja Azeemul Haq, a close relative of Raja Pervez Ashraf, to contest from Punjab Assembly where the party does not have the required numbers to win a seat. Palwasha Khan and Khairun Nisa Mughal are likely to contest for women seats on PPP tickets.

The party is also likely to award ticket to Farhatullah Babar from KP where the party does not have the required number of votes to win a seat.

According to sources, former prime minister and PPP Vice-Chairman Yousaf Raza Gilani has decided to contest the Senate elections as the joint candidate for the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). Previously, it had been rumoured that he would not run.

Gilani – who holds the longest tenure as PM – said that he would only contest if all parties agree to get him elected as Senate chairman and has been assured of consensus for the polls. In this regard, he is likely to file his nomination papers Saturday morning by 11 am.

Gilani would be elected unopposed unless the PTI fields its own candidate. It is pertinent to mention here that the Senate has two seats within the federal capital, wherein the treasury seat generally goes to the ruling party. It was expected that the opposition seat would go to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) due to its majority in the Senate. However, it now appears that the PML-N has agreed to back the former premier in the Senate.

PML-N has also announced tickets as hopefuls throng Lahore. While more than a dozen PML-N candidates are lobbying for the Senate election on PML-N tickets, the only people the party has named so far is Mushahidullah Khan, Pervaiz Rasheed, Allama Sajid Mir, Azam Nazeer Tarar, and Saadia Abbasi.

However, parliamentary affairs experts say no PML-N candidate from Sindh, KP, Balochistan or the federal capital is likely to win.

The only chance the PML-N stands is Punjab where the party is likely to win an expected four seats. Five PML-N senators from Punjab — Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervez Rasheed, Mushahidullah Khan, Chaudhry Tanveer and Lieutenant General (r) Abdul Qayyum  — retire in March.

According to sources, Haq, Rasheed and Khan have already been given a green signal from the party Vice President Maryam Nawaz to contest the elections. Former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair has also shifted his vote from Karachi to Punjab and is lobbying for the party ticket.

PML-N Sindh President Shah Mehmood Shah has also shifted his vote to Punjab and claims that the party president, Shehbaz Sharif, has promised to elect him from Punjab. Attaullah Tarar and Saud Majeed are also hopeful for Senate tickets.

Moreover, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), MQM-P and BAP are also in process of finalising their candidates, Pakistan Today learnt on Friday. Only Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) lags behind in making its nominations public.

From Balochistan, BAP has also shortlisted names of Sarfraz Bugti, Dr Kumar, Hussainul Islam, Shah Zaman Kakar, Mir Behroz Raiki while ANP’s former Senator Sitara has been named for woman seat.

NP has named Dr Inayatullah Khan and Nizamuddin Kakar while Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) has finalised Sajid Tareen, Malik Abdul Wali Kakar, Lashkari Raisani and Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini.

JUI-F has named Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri for general seat and Kamran Murtaza for technocrat seat.

MQM-P leaders, including Amir Khan, Faisal Sabzwari, Rauf Siddiqui, Zafar Jamali and Abdul Qadir Khanzada, are set to file their nomination papers but they have little to no chance of getting elected.

Nasreen Jalil and Khalida Tayyab are vying for the one women’s seat that MQM-P is likely to win thanks to the support from allied parties, the PTI and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).

Kamil Ali Agha has been awarded a ticket from PML-Q and is likely to win with support from PTI.

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Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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