Balochistan independent Senator Sadiq Sanjrani has been elected as Senate Chairman as he bagged 57 votes out of the total 103, DawnNewsTV reported.
Polling took place via a secret ballot. After the chairman is elected, he will begin proceedings for election of the deputy chairman of the upper house, DawnNewsTVreported.
The top contenders for the post of chairman are independent Balochistan Senator Sadiq Sanjrani — backed by the joint opposition including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), other independents from Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) — and PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq — nominated by the ruling party and supported by its coalition partners.
PPP’s Saleem Mandviwalla and Pakhtukhwa Milli Awami Party’s (PkMAP) Usman Khan Kakar are the nominees fielded by the joint opposition and ruling party’s bloc respectively for the post of deputy chairman.
The nomination papers of all four candidates were accepted earlier today.
In last minute wheelings and dealings for the top posts in the upper house, eight Fata members announced their support for Sanjrani, while the MQM-Ps’ Bahadurabad group said it would not support Saleem Mandviwalla for the post of deputy chairman.
Explaining his party’s stance after a meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Sanjrani, MQM-P Senator Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said: “It will not be possible for us to vote for the PPP [deputy chairman] candidate [Saleem Mandviwalla]” due to the PPP government’s performance in Sindh.
Prior to the polling, Sanjrani appeared confident of victory and claimed to enjoy the support of over 70 members of the house, hinting at defections from the PML-N and its allies.
However, even without defections, Sanjrani is in a strong position with support from the PPP [20 votes], PTI [12 votes], Fata independents [8 votes], Balochistan independents [6 votes] and MQM-P [5 votes].
The PML-N, which appeared to be floundering without the backing of other major players in politics, held meetings with allies today to finalise their nominees for the top posts after Sanjrani emerged as the joint opposition’s top contender for chairman Senate on Sunday.
During a meeting at PML-N leader Raheel Muneer’s residence in Islamabad earlier today, the ruling party and its allies decided on Raja Zafarul Haq as their pick for chairman and Kakar for deputy chairman, according to Senator Mushahidullah, who also appeared optimistic that the PML-N bloc had the numbers to get both its candidates elected.
In addition to the PkMAP, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), National Party, Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) have all thrown their weight behind the PML-N backed candidates.
ANP Senator Sitara Ayaz said its sole vote would go to the ruling coalition’s candidates as the PPP had refused to field Raza Rabbani as its candidate for the slot of chairman.
51 new senators take oath
Earlier in the day, 51 newly elected senators took oath in a ceremony held in Islamabad. Presiding Officer Yaqoob Nasar administered the oath for the senators elected via polls held on March 3. Senators were then invited to sign the member rolls.
Only Finance Minister Ishaq Dar did not take the oath as he is undergoing medical treatment in London and his election as a senator is being contested in the apex court.
Speaking to the media, outgoing chairman Raza Rabbani dispelled the impression of disagreements within the PPP and said that he stands with his party.
He was answering a question regarding his reaction to PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s comments casting doubts over the three-year stint of the party stalwart as the house’s custodian and him siding with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. “Everyone has a right to their opinion,” Rabbani said.