Islamabad: Amid political turbulence, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) seems all set for taking over parliament’s upper house (Senate) after almost two-decades. However, party’s absolute majority in the house may be marred with some unpredictable results from Balochistan province and Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).

Senate elections to replace half of the upper house are scheduled on March 3, as 52 of its senators will complete their term on March 11. Replacing senators will take oath on March 12.

Recent change of PMLN government in Balochistan, topsy-turvy FATA members and ousting of PMLN from senate elections as a political party after Supreme Court of Pakistan’s directions in a case, are the apparent challenges for PMLN to smooth sail in the Senate elections with impressions of “unseen hands” behind this whole move to keep PMLN away from the power.

On the other side, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which will be a major loser in the Senate as 18 of its lawmakers are set to retire on March 11, is also eyeing more seats in Senate than its proportion of representation by mustering support from Balochistan and FATA. Also, the number game in Senate may change keeping in view the process of secret balloting of and the recent rumors of horse-trading in some provinces.

According to the proportion of representation in the parliament, it is estimated that PMLN could get more than 30 seats. However, in a recent decision, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared PMLN candidates ‘independent” after the apex court removed Nawaz Sharif as party president and cancelled the senate tickets issued with his signatures in an effort to revoke all of his decisions as party chief. After getting status of “independent” candidates in Senate polls, the PMLN entrants would not be able to formally join PMLN and it would not be mandatory for them to follow party discipline despite extending support to their party.

“These all tactics are to oust PMLN from Senate elections and create imbalance in the party but we believe that all such powers will fail and PMLN would remain united and would get clear majority in Senate,” PMLN senior leader Khawaja Saad Rafiq told Truth Tracker. He said PMLN candidates were loyal to party and its leader Nawaz Sharif. He said unseen powers were trying to derail democracy and democratic process but vowed to continue the struggle. He said it was attempt of pre-poll rigging.

“What happened with the PML-N candidates in the Senate elections as a result of Supreme Court verdict was quite unprecedented as it changed the status of the PM-N candidate from party to Independent and that too after issuance of the final list. Can something like this happen in the general elections as well is a big question,” political analyst Mazhar Abbas said, adding, “It would be interesting to see the fate of Senate elections after this situation.”

“It has been three years that Pakistan Peoples’ Party has been ruling the upper house with the majority of only one vote. So, why PMLN cannot control the house with clear majority and with the help of political allies,’ Mumtaz Alvi, senior journalist who covers Senate for the past several years, said, adding, “Though there can be unpredictable results from Balochistan province and FATA but PMLN will manage majority easily. He thought PMLN might not get two-third majority to have any constitutional amendment in the Upper House but it can rule the house for favorable legislation in next three months, which was difficult for it earlier. He said the signs of unpredictability in Balochistan were clear after the emergence of a group within the PMLN that helped in removing PMLN’s chief minister Balochistan over some differences few months ago. “Also, with the majority in Senate will give majority to PMLN in both houses to get favorable legislative business in days to come,” he added.

The ruling PMLN has already hinted for a couple of time to bring new legislators against present judicial system after getting majority in both houses of parliament. Whether the party is able to complete its agenda to revert SC decisions through parliament with new majority would remain a question until the Senate’s new count.

Mubasher Bukhari, a political analyst, says that the independent status of the PML-N candidates after the Supreme Court’s verdict has created uncertainty amongst the league’s leadership about the party’s majority in the Senate. “Though, all candidates are loyal to Sharifs, you never know. After being elected, some of them might become turncoats and join PPP as they would face no action under defection clause of the Constitution of Pakistan,” added Bukhari.

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