ISLAMABAD: The ruling PTI has suffered a major set back in the Senate election when PDM candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani defeated Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh for the Islamabad seat.
Former prime minister Gilani has polled 169 votes against 164 votes of Hafeez Sheikh, with seven votes rejected. Yousaf Gilani has won despite the scandal of a video of his son Ali Haider who was telling lawmakers how to waste their vote.
Interestingly, the same electoral college that rejected Hafeez Sheikh, elected PTI’s Fozia Arshad for reserved women’s seat. Earlier, PPP’s Sherry Rehman and Salim Madviwala won from Sindh.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Shabaz Gill has said that the PTI intends to challenge the result, which as of yet is a preliminary unofficial result.
Polling for the high-stakes Senate elections on 37 seats in the National and provincial assemblies has been conducted. Polling started at 9 am and ended at 5 pm.
On the occasion, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted, “Democracy is the best revenge. Jeya Bhutto!”
Numbers and process
Parliamentarians voted in the highly contested elections on 37 vacant seats, with 11 senators already having been elected unopposed from Punjab. Today’s voting decided the members of the Senate for 12 seats from Balochistan, 12 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 from Sindh, and 2 from Islamabad Capital Territory. A total of 48 senators will be elected this year.
Members of Provincial Assemblies (MPAs) registered their votes for seats in the provincial assemblies, while Members of the National (MNAs) voted for seats in the National Assembly.
Polling was done through secret ballots, after a highly contested debate between the government and opposition over transparency in the electoral process.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was vying for voting through a show of hands, and a presidential reference had been filed with the apex court for an opinion on the matter. The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday ordered that polling be conducted via secret ballots as ordained in the Constitution; however, the secrecy of the ballot is not absolute. The government and the opposition both claimed the SC ruling a victory.
The court’s short order also specified that transparency in the electoral process is maintained through the utilisation of technology by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP, however, said that due to time constraints, polling would take as per past practice.
After his election, Yousaf Raza Gilani held a press conference along with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The two leaders thanked the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leadership and termed the election of Gilani to the senate as a win for Democracy.
“Today’s win, is a win for Democracy,” said Bilawal, “the PDM won the by-elections and the now has also emerged victorious in the Senate polls. I am glad that the PDM contested the Senate polls, we could not have confirmed whether we would win or lose but at least we chose to fight. The PPP has always believed in resisting within the system and has formed governments after elections while voicing concerns against rigging.”
The former PM said that he will meet the senior leadership of the PDM, including Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman, who is the President of the PDM and the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif.
In response to a question as to whether the PDM will pursue the long march before or after the vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly, Bilawal responded that the strategy would be made by the PDM through a consensus and it would be premature to comment on the issue.
“The NA senate seat is Pakistan’s vote, all the representatives of Pakistan vote for this seat and the PTI’s loss here shows that Imran Khan and his Cabinet not only failed to reach out to the people of Pakistan but also thier own MNAs. PT-IMF [Bilawal’s spin on the IMF geared policies of the PTI] policies have been rejected by people,” commented Bilawal.
Gilani commented, “The win was not only about a single candidate but also restoring the independence of the Parliament after the PTI had attempted to undermine the sovereignty of the parliament after the reference [filed in the Supreme Court in regards to Senate ballot secrecy].”
Echoing the same sentiment, Bilawal said: “Democracy’s future is bright.”
In response to a question by a journalist over the possibility of the PTI dissolving the assembly, Bilwal challenged the incumbent government to dissolve the assemblies if they have the courage.
“Imran Khan was a sportsman. In sports, you can either choose an honourable defeat or a dishonourable one. I would advise him to accept the decision with honour,” he said.