The Senate elections are underway in the national and provincial assemblies as 133 candidates contest for 52 seats on Saturday.
The Senate — the Upper House of Parliament — is a body of 104 lawmakers. Each serves a term of six years, barring resignation, disqualification, or other extraordinary circumstances. They are not all elected at the same time: rather, half are elected at one time, and the other half three years later.
In 2018, 52 senators (who were elected in 2012) are slated to retire. The other 52 were elected in 2015 and will retire in 2021.
Of the 52 Senate seats being vacated for election today, 46 will be filled by the four provincial assemblies, 2 by the National Assembly, and 4 by lawmakers representing Fata.
Of all the candidates in the running, 20 are looking to secure one of 12 seats from Punjab, 33 are contesting for 12 seats from Sindh, 26 for 11 seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 25 for 11 seats from Balochistan, 24 for four seats from Fata and five for two seats from the federal capital.
According to a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Rangers and Frontier Corps personnel have been deployed outside all the polling stations established in parliament house and the four provincial assemblies, while returning officers have been given magisterial power during the polling process that will continue from 9am till 4pm without a break.
Media personnel have been barred from entering the provincial assemblies as well as the Parliament building as part of the security arrangements.
No person entering the assembly premises is allowed to carry their cellphones or any other electronic devices with them.
The main halls of all provincial assemblies have been declared polling stations for the respective provinces and while separate polling stations have been formed in the National Assembly for the election of senators from Fata and Islamabad.
According to the ECP, 1,600 ballot papers for Punjab, 800 for Sindh, 600 for KP, 300 for Balochistan, 800 for Islamabad and 50 for Fata have been printed and handed over to the respective returning officers.
The Senate election is held through secret voting on a basis of single transferable vote through “preference voting”. All four provincial assemblies are electoral college for the four respective assemblies.
Members of the National Assembly from Fata (11) will elect four Fata senators, while other members of the National Assembly will elect two senators from Islamabad. The National Assembly has 272 members elected on general seats out of total 342 seats. Of them, 11 members will be required to elect each of the four Fata senators. Half of the remaining 228 MNAs (114) will be required to elect Senators from Islamabad.
The new senators will take oath on March 12.
Punjab Assembly has 371 seats and its existing strength is 367. Under the formula of Senate elections, 53 votes of provincial lawmakers will be required to win a single general seat from Punjab Assembly. For technocrat and women seats, those candidates would be declared winner who will get maximum number of votes. PML-N has 310 seats in the province, PTI 30, PPP and PML-Q have eight seats each while five are independent members.
Sindh Assembly has 168 seats and its existing strength is 167. Twenty four votes will be required to win a single general seat from the Sindh Assembly. PPP has 95 seats, MQM has 50, PML-F nine, PML-N seven and PTI four.
KP Assembly has 124 seats and its existing members are 123, while 18 votes will be required to win a general seat from there. PTI has 61 members, PML-N and JU-F 16 each, Qaumi Watan Party 10, JI seven, PPP six and Awami National Party (ANP) has five lawmakers.
Balochistan Assembly has 65 seats and nine votes will be required to win a single general seat of Senate from there. PML-N has 21 seats but most of them have become dissidents. PKMAP has 11 members, JUI-F eight while PML-Q has five members in the assembly.
Prominent among those contesting polls from Punjab against the seven general seats from Punjab include former Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on a PTI ticket, Kamil Ali Agha (PML-Q) and PML-N-backed Asif Kirmani, Musadik Malik, Haroon Akhtar Khan and Rana Mehmoodul Hassan. PML-N-backed independent candidates for the two seats reserved for women are Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi’s sister Saadia Abbasi and Nuzhat Sadiq. The PTI has fielded Andaleeb Abbas for women seat from Punjab.
The three PML-N-backed independent candidates in the run for two technocrat seats include former finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar.
Prominent candidates from Sindh include sitting Senate chairman Raza Rabbani, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Maula Bux Chandio, Murtaza Wahab, Kamran Tessori, Ahmad Chinoy, Anis Ahmad Qaimkhani and Farogh Naseem.
From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, former chief minister Pir Sabir Shah, Ali Afzal Khan Jadoon (backed by the PML-N), Faisal Sakhi Butt (PPP) Talha Mehmood (JUI-F), Maulana Samiul Haq, Azam Swati, Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli, Rubina Khalid and Naeema Kishwar are amongst the prominent candidates.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed and Asad Junejo and former prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s brother Raja Imran Ashraf are prominent among those in the run.