As Senate elections near, the political temperature is rising by the day with all major political parties fiercely campaigning to ensure that their respective parliamentarians vote for the correct candidate. The PTI has gone one step further to practically eliminate the possibility of one party’s votes going to another by calling for the ballot to be open rather than secret as it has been for so many elections previously. While it cannot gather the numbers in the lower House to pass the necessary constitutional amendment, it has gone the oft-frequented presidential ordinance route and has also approached the Supreme Court for its seal of approval through a reference. Therefore, in the absence of any guarantees, the government is pulling out all the stops, engaging in activity that is detrimental to unity even within its own ranks. Apart from awarding tickets to undeserving candidates who are close to the Prime Minister, provincial governors, who by virtue of being representatives of the federation are supposed to play a bipartisan role, have engaged in behaviour not appropriate for the office they hold, which has angered party loyalists. PTI Sindh leaders have demanded that the province’s Governor Imran Ismail be removed as he has been pushing for his “blue-eyed” new entrants for Senate seats while ignoring those who have stuck by the party for much longer. Last week both PTI candidates from Islamabad, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Fauzia Arshad, met with The Punjab Governor at his Lahore residence to get assurances that PTI and allied parties’ National Assembly members would vote for them.
It is understandable why the ruling party lacks confidence in its parliamentarians, to contest Senate elections in a conventional manner. Over the past two and a half years there have been several instances where its own and allied parties’ MNAs and MPAs have expressed their severe displeasure over promises being broken, development funds not released and a general indefensible underperformance and incompetence that has made it difficult for them to visit their constituencies without facing some backlash as a consequence. Prime Minister Imran Khan can market his pre-Senate election moves as an effort to make them ‘corruption free’ but it is obvious that it is aimed at getting a majority in the Upper House come what may, by hook or by crook.