Major setback for PDM as PTI wins both Senate top slots

Ruckus mars upper house as hidden cameras are discovered in polling booth

ISLAMABAD: Government-backed candidates Sadiq Sanjrani and Mirza Muhammad Afridi were elected as Senate chairman and deputy chairman, respectively on Friday after they defeated their opponents who were supported by the 11-party opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

According to official results, Sanjrani recieved 48 votes, while his opponent Yousaf Raza Gillani bagged 42 votes. Seven votes received by the PDM candidate were rejected, which led to outcry from his party’s lawmakers. An eight vote was also rejected as it supported both candidates.

Sanjrani took his oath amid opposition’s protests and expressed his gratitude to the ruling party and to Defence Minister Pervez Khattak in particular.

Later, Afridi was declared to be the winner of the deputy chairman slot after he defeated PDM’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. The former received 54 votes against the latter’s 44 votes. No votes were rejected.

Voting for the slot of Senate chairman ended on Friday at 15:18 pm in the upper house of the parliament.

Presiding Officer (PO) Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah chaired the session. The first vote was cast by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Secretary-General Haideri. Senators Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Gillani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) contested for the slot of the chairman.

The nomination papers filed in the Senate Secretariat for the slots of chairman and deputy chairman were accepted after detailed scrutiny.

According to Senate Secretariat, Secretary Senate Mohammad Qasim Samad Khan received the nominations papers and supervised the overall scrutiny process.

Senator Sanjrani and Senator Gillani filed their nomination papers for the slot of chairman Senate while Afridi and Haideri filed their papers for the post of deputy chairman.

Earlier in the day, as many as 48 newly-elected senators took the oath. Syed Muzafar Hussain, nominated by President Dr Arif Alvi as presiding officer, administrated the oath.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed abstained from casting his vote in the elections. The senator had already announced that he will not take part in the elections after his party boycotted the polls.

The polling for the Senate chairman ended after 98 senators voted in the elections. The counting of votes for the Senate chairman’s election officially started at 5pm. The last vote was cast by the presiding officer.

Along with the abstained vote from JI, Ishaq Dar did not cast a vote, as he has yet to take his oath.

HIDDEN CAMERAS:

During the proceedings, hidden cameras were discovered by leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). PO Sayed Muzafar Hussain Shah, in this regard, announced the formation of a six-member committee to investigate the issue of hidden cameras’ installation around the polling booth meant for the elections.

He said that Senators Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Mussadik Malik and Azam Khan Swati had approached the secretary with separate written requests to hold a thorough probe into the incident.

The PO asked the leader of the upper house and leader of the opposition in the Senate to give three names each for the committee members in due course of time.

He said that the committee members would themselves elect the convener to advance the proceeding of the parliamentary body.

After the cameras were discovered, the opposition demanded CCTV footage from the previous day in the upper house. Khokhar and Malik, along with other senators, approached the Senate Secretariat security chief to seek his assurance that nothing will happen to the footage.

Khokhar and Malik repeatedly asked whether the footage could be destroyed without the consent of the security chief, to which he replied: “Sir, the CCTV footage can only be [destroyed] if it is accessed”.

“You aren’t answering my question,” said Malik.

“As of now sir, no one has accessed the CCTV footage neither have we received any such request,” said the security chief.

“So what you’re saying is that the security video is there?” asks Khokhar.

“Yes sir, it is there,” responds the security chief.

“So if any attempt is made to destroy it, you will not let that happen, right?” asks Khokhar.

“Exactly, sir. I will not,” responds the security officer.

The PPP senator then told the security officer that he feared the footage from the last couple of days may be destroyed.

“Sir, whatever footage we have is saved,” said the security chief, urging the PDM senators to approach the speaker of the upper house for further action.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday demanded an investigation into the hidden cameras that were installed in the polling booth ahead of the polls.

Bilawal demanded of Sanjrani – the government’s candidate for the Senate chairmanship – to step down and remarked that he disgraced the sanctity of the upper house.

His remarks came after PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar took to Twitter and shared a picture of an alleged camera along with the caption: “Myself and Dr Musadik found spy cameras right over the polling booth!!!!”

Khokhar and PML-N leader Malik talked to the media afterwards. The PML-N leader asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Supreme Court (SC) to take notice of the incident.

Khokhar said that it is a crime to tamper with the secrecy of vote under the Election Act 2017. While demanding investigations, he said that Sanjrani should withdraw his name as a candidate for the Senate chairman and someone else should contest.

A ruckus was created in the upper house following the development as the opposition stood up from seats and staged a protest. Senator Raza Rabbani said that installing spy cameras are in violation of the law.

Similarly, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Friday said that the Constitution of Pakistan has a clause about “secret voting” but not “secret cameras”.

While responding to the issue of spy cameras over polling booth in the Senate ahead of chairman and deputy chairman elections, the PML-N leader took to social-networking website Twitter and posted, “Have some shame vote thieves and leave the seats.”

Those carrying out a robbery in the upper house of the parliament have lost their last war after the RTS fiasco and fog in Daska polls, she added.

On the other hand, Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz accused the opposition of installing cameras over the polling booth and announced to conduct an inquiry into the matter.

Reacting to the opposition, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said that the opposition’s sinister plan of installing cameras in the polling booth has been exposed.

In a tweet, the minister said that similar tactics were used in the Senate elections in National Assembly (NA) by the opposition, wherein they converted majority into minority using all criminal tactics.

He stressed that this was the reason the PDM was against open balloting.

The minister maintained the era of loot and plunder was taking its last breath.

Similarly, Special Assistant to the Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Friday said that opposition parties are levelling false allegations to escape from the Senate chairman and deputy chairman elections.

Talking to journalists at the Parliament House Media Centre, she said that it was a democratic process and winning or losing is part of it.

She also said that the opposition has already lost their trust in the masses and now they were making hue and cry to play victim, adding that they should take care of the sanctity of the Senate.

The SACM said that PTI-nominated deputy chairman from the merged area of the region formally known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to end the sense of deprivation of its people.

Firdous said that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) knows that the PTI government is committed to contesting them at each front. She said that opposition should come out of blame game politics and not violate the sanctity of the upper house.

She suggested that after elections, Senate chairman should constitute a parliamentary committee to probe the issue of secret cameras in the polling booth.

Moreover, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), an ally of the PTI-led ruling coalition, demanded an inquiry into the installation of spy cameras in the Senate.

MQM-P leader and Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haq maintained: “We are an ally of the government but our stance is very clear that there should an investigation.”

Haq stressed that the government without any delay should announce the inquiry into the installation of the spy cameras in the Senate. “This should not have happened as this is the credibility of the Parliament you are talking about,” the MQM-P leader declared.

With additional input from APP and INP

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