That Yousaf Raza Gilani defeated Dr Hafeez Sheikh for the Senate had come as a shock to the PTI leadership. Subsequent petitions to challenge the victory were rejected by both the ECP and Islamabad High Court. Left red-faced, Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the voters for electing Mr Gilani, whom he considered a corrupt politician. The country is losing its moral compass, the PM lamented. The Information Minister was blunter about what the ruling party would do now. Without mincing words he declared, “It can’t happen that we play Sharif Sharif and do everything according to law. We would do everything necessary for winning.” The loss of face continues to rankle the ruling party and it seems determined to do whatever it takes to regain its prestige. Presiding over a meeting of his spokespersons on Monday, Mr Khan said the Chairman’s post would be won by his party despite the opposition’s majority in the Upper House.
The Opposition enjoys a majority in the Senate. If everybody was to vote for their alliance’s candidate, Mr Gilani would win the Senate Chairman’s race fair and square. But since the Chairman Senate is authorised to act as the President of Pakistan in the latter’s absence the post is considered to be crucial. There is widespread perception that Mr Sadiq Sanjrani, who was little known in 2018, managed to occupy the seat with the help of those who matter. A year later a joint PML(N)–PPP assault failed to de-seat him as 14 defectors saved Mr Sanjrani in an anticlimactic Senate vote. Mr Sanjrani is a Baloch and a leading light of the BAP which has never made a secret of its being a pro-establishment party. Mr Sanjrani has all along stayed the course charted out for him.
The way PTI failed to stop Mr Gilani’s victory despite hectic lobbying by the PM himself indicates its incompetence in managing electoral politics. Few would believe Mr Khan could have won the vote of confidence on his own. Mr Gilani’s victory would signal that those who matter remained neutral. To many this would come as a happy surprise. In case one saw a repeat of 2019, it would sadden those who want the country to be run according to the rules of the game.