Ruling PTI offers JUI-F deputy chairman Senate post

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The PTI has offered Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) the post of deputy chairman Senate.

Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak said that the ruling party has told senior JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri that he can be the deputy chairman Senate.

The development was confirmed by the minister after he met the JUI-F leader with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

Reacting to the news, PML-N’s Punjab president Rana Sanaullah said the move by the government seemed to be an attempt to cause a rift within the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

“The JUI-F is bound by the decisions of the PDM,” he noted. “Maulana Fazlur Rehman chaired a meeting yesterday and it had been agreed with a consensus to nominate Yousaf Raza Gillani as the alliance’s joint candidate for the Senate chairman elections,” he said.

Sanaullah added that a committee headed by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had been formed to select the nominee for the Senate deputy chairman post. The PML-N leader said that according to his information, the committee had picked Haideri’s name as its nominee for the post as well.

The former Punjab law minister, however, said that he didn’t think the JUI-F would accept the offer.

JUI-F representative Hafiz Hamdullah said he hadn’t spoken to Haideri officially but said that according to his information, the veteran JUI-F leader had not been approached by the government.

However, he said that if an offer is made, the PDM will take the decision on it. He confirmed that a committee headed by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will take the lead in finalising the names of the alliance’s nominee for the Senate deputy chairperson.

“How can we accept the government’s offer? We don’t even recognise the government,” said Hamdullah.

Sanaullah, on the other hand, said the government should recognise the Opposition’s numbers in the upper house and ensure Gillani’s election to the Senate chairman seat unopposed.

“According to my information, no direct offer has been made by the government [for the deputy Senate chairperson’s post],” he said, adding that it may be possible that an offer could have been made to Haideri when he met Khattak.

How is the Senate chairman elected?

According to Article 60 of the Constitution, the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate are elected from amongst its members for a three-year term.

The election is held through a secret ballot and the candidate who secures the most number of votes is elected, according to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2021.

If two candidates get an equal number of votes, the rules say a fresh ballot has to be held until one secures more votes than the other.

This last scenario, although it may seem unlikely, seems a tantalising possibility this time around due to how the Senate is split. More on this later.

Will Sanjrani become Senate chairman again?

If Sanjrani can corral enough votes, he will be elected head of the House for a second consecutive term.

However, the opposition holds a slim majority in the Senate. Does that mean Gillani has a better shot?

Let’s do the math.

There will be a total of 100 senators in the Upper House on March 12 after the swearing-in ceremony.

This year, the government and its allies — which include the MQM-Pakistan, the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and the PML-Q — won a combined 27 seats in the Senate. The coalition also has the support of 19 senators who will be staying on till 2024.

That brings the total number of senators behind the PTI and its allies to 46.

Now, over to the opposition.

Last week, the PML-N, PPP, JUI-F and BNP-M won a combined 17 seats. They also have the support of 32 senators continuing in the house till 2024.

This brings their total to 49.

However, from that total of 49, the PML-N’s Ishaq Dar, who was elected senator in 2018, has yet to take oath and is unlikely to be able to vote for the Senate chairman.

That means the opposition in reality has only 48 senators, and the Senate itself will have 99 members able to vote.

Bear in mind that the the government and opposition’s numbers combined (46+48 = 94) still leave 5 senators to be accounted for.