In a major upset in the Senate election, Yousaf Raza Gilani, the joint candidate of opposition parties, was unexpectedly elected senator from Islamabad by defeating Abdul Hafeez Shaikh of the ruling party. In response, Tehreek-i-Insaaf has decided to challenge the result.Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry had earlier claimed that Shaikh would get over 180 votes, but the finance minister ended up with 164, losing the election by five votes.
There were already reports in the media of widespread resentment among PTI legislators over the allotment of ticket to a man who had no affiliation with the party and was sure to leave the country after losing his job. Some of the dissenters had come out into the open. Sensing the danger, Prime Minister Imran Khan had set aside all official activities to personally canvass for his finance minister. That even the PTI chief failed to persuade the dissidents indicates the depth of resentment against Shaikh.
There’s also the fact that Sheikh has been perhaps the most aloof of all senior members of the federal government. He has never cared to mingle with his colleagues, nor has he ever had much time to listen to people’s complaints or do anything to address any of them. All this eventually led to the upset in the Senate vote. That party voters remained loyal to the party itself can be seen from the fact that their woman candidate, Fozia Arshad, won her seat from the capital. The PTI vote bank, then, is intact, it’s just the selection of the candidate that was wrong.
Now, the race for a new chairman of the Senate will be interesting to watch, and of course Gilani appears to be a strong candidate for the top slot. His win has given the PDM a psychological boost to continue their campaign against the government, which will find it a bit difficult to counter the opposition’s challenge. The PDM was already talking about a no-confidence vote against the government and if it manages to get Gilani elected as the new Senate chairman, a likely no-confidence move in the National Assembly is not unlikely.
Well, opposition leaders have already started calling upon the Prime Minister to tender his resignation and go. They see Gillani’s success as a first step towards sending Imran Khan packing. The government, on the other hand, insists that the Election Commission of Pakistan has failed to ensure transparent elections as directed by the Supreme Court while issuing its opinion on the presidential reference seeking its advice on the mode of voting in the Senate elections.
Whatever went on behind the scenes or before the cameras, this is a big blow to the PTI. It will remain so regardless of how the Senate shapes out in the end. Meanwhile, we are left to ponder politics in Pakistan and the curious equations it throws up from time to time.