Bargaining for Senate seats in full swing
Published February 16th 2003 in Hi Pakistan

KARACHI: Out of the three independent candidates in the run for the Senate's general seats, two may emerge as dark horses owing to their manoeuvring, financial clout and influence across the power corridors, according to political circles.

The elections, in all the four provinces, are scheduled for Feb 24.

The independents - Dewan Yusuf Farooqui, Amin Dadabhai and Munir Sultan - are currently busy wooing legislators and putting up vigorous efforts to win over the electorates. Political circles point out that the aspirants have been concentrating on the legislators belonging to Pakistan Peoples Party and Mutahida Majlis-i-Amal those belonging to the PML-Q and the component parties of National Alliance are already committed to their respective party high commands under an understanding.

The sources also point out that in Senate elections, wheelers and dealers are not legislators but the task is being accomplished by either group leaders or influential middle-men who, after securing the voters' commitment, start bargaining with the candidates.

In order to secure seats for its stake-holders, the government has started talks with the disgruntled groups to rope them in the line by offering cabinet seats for their representatives in the next phase of cabinet expansion.

After the Supreme Court verdict allowing losers to contest the Senate elections, the total number of candidates in the field has increased from 40 to 43.

According to the break up, there are 24 candidates contesting 14 general seats, nine for the four seats reserved for women and 10 for the four seats reserved for technocrats/ulema.

The three candidates who have benefitted from the SC verdict are Asif Mustafa Jatoi and Ali Hasan Chanhio (vying for general seats) and Ayaz Malik (seeking a technocrat's seat). According to sources, Asif Jatoi's candidature has not yet been cleared owing to the objection from his rival over his graduation degree.

Earlier, nomination papers of Javed Jabbar and Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, both contesting for general seats, were provisionally accepted by the Election Commission and after the SC ruling, they are very much in the field.

According to the single transferable vote system, a candidate for the general seat from Sindh needs only 12 votes to emerge victorious.

The only independent candidate for the reserved women seats is Sheerin Farooqui.

Circles close to the treasury benches told Dawn that independent candidates had been told that if they managed to secure even half of the required votes, they could make way to the Senate through the single transferable votes from treasury benches under the system.

Under the proportional representation system, the votes in excess of the required votes can further be divided among other candidates in accordance with to the next available preferences on the ballot papers. After the transfer of surplus votes, the candidate whose votes are the lowest on the poll is excluded and his votes are also transferred according to the next available preferences.

The electoral college for election of the Senate members comprises members of the provincial assemblies. On the basis of 168, which is total strength of the Sindh Assembly, 12 votes are needed to win a general seat and 42 for a reserved seat.The present party position in the assembly indicates that Pakistan Peoples Party is the only party which can get its five senators elected on general seats and one each on technocrat and woman seats.

The PPP, which is left with 63 members after defection of its five members, even after getting its seven senators elected has three votes for general seats, and 21 for technocrat and woman seats.

Mutahida Qaumi Movement, which has 41 members in the House, even after getting its three members elected to the Senate from general seats, will still left with five votes for general seats. However, being short of one vote for technocrat and women reserved seats, the MQM without support from coalition partners is not in a position to get any of its candidate elected to the reserved seats.

Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which has succeeded to enrol nine members on its side has raised its strength from 18 to 27. Therefore, it will get its two senators elected from general seats in addition to three extra votes for the general seat and 27 for bargaining on reserved seats.

National Alliance, which has a strength of 16 votes, can only get one member elected to the Senate keeping four votes for bargaining on general seats and 16 votes for reserved seats.

Pakistan Muslim League-F has 13 members in the House. It is in a position to send only one candidate to the Senate and still keeping one vote for the general seat and all its 13 votes for bargaining on reserved seats.

The Mutahida Majlis-i-Amal, which is left with eight votes after defection of its two members to the coalition side. It is not in a position to get even one member elected on the Senate's general seats without reaching understanding with other groups. However, since it has eight votes at its disposal for the reserved seats, it can get only one candidate elected to the Senate and that, too, on a general seat.

On the treasury side - comprising the MQM, PML-Q, NA and PML-F - the remaining votes if pooled together would be 13 to get one more candidate elected from the general seat while on the reserved seats, the benches would have 97 votes available to get two women and two technocrats elected to the Senate with 13 more votes still available.

On the opposition side, PPP is backed by the MMA and Mohajir Qaumi Movement. It will have 11 votes, one short of the required votes to get another of its candidate elected on general seat. It will have 29 votes available for bargaining on reserved seats.

Prof Muhammad Saeed Siddiqui, Noman Sehgal, Ahmad Ali, Babar Khan Ghori, Muhammad Arif Khan and Rana Safdar of MQM; Javed Jabbar and Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah of National Alliance; Justice (r) Abdul Razzaq Thahim of PML-F; Muhammadmian Soomro and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh of PML-Q are contesting on genera seats.