The race for the chairman senate is still wide open. No party still is in the position to elect its chairman without the support of the independent senators and smaller parties. The names of Raja Zafarul Haq, Saleem Mandiwala and Sherry Rehman are under consideration for this position. A surprise name can emerge from Baluchistan and KPK. No political party has yet announced its candidate for chairman Senate. Both PPP and PML-N will likely to announce their candidates in next couple of days.
The battle for the chairman Senate between PML-N and PPP has begun. PML-N has become the largest party in the Senate with 33 seats after the March 03 elections. PPP was the largest party in the upper house of parliament since 2009. PPP was able to elect its chairman Senate for the very first time since 1985. Now PPP is the second largest party with 20 seats. PTI is the third largest party with 12 seats. PML-Q was once a dominant force in the Senate now been wiped out. ANP is the other major loser in the recently concluding senate election.
Many political commentators and analysts are repeatedly declaring PPP favourite to re-elect its chairman. But number game is giving different picture. PML-N looks much more comfortable in the number game. PML-N and its allies have the strength of 48 senators. It already secured the support of an independent senator from FATA. PML-N can also win the support of PML-F senator to make the total number of senators at 50.
It is not going to be easy for PPP to win the support of PTI. It will be a difficult decision for PTI to support either Saleem Mandiwala or sherry Rehman. PTI can support the current chairman Raza Rabbani as a consensus candidate.
The independent senators from Baluchistan also demanding chairman slot for their group. This group of independent senators are negotiating with both PPP and PTI. PPP is banking heavily on this group to get the required numbers to elect its chairman. It will be blow if this group decided to stick to its demand.
Three names are under discussion from PML-N for this slot. Raja Zafarul Haq is the favourite candidate for PML-N. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to nominate Pervaiz Rashid for this slot but the internal situation in the party is not helping his wish to be fulfilled. Pervaiz Rashid is considered anti establishment and staunch Nawaz Sharif loyalist. Nawaz Sharif will love to send a strong message to powers be with the election of Pervaiz Rashid as senate chairman. But Shahbaz Sharif is not in a position to send a strong message to establishment when the elections just few months away. So Raja Zafarul Haq is the ultimate choice to avoid internal struggle and frictions. Raja Zafarul Haq will be acceptable for the establishment.
The PPP is considering Saleem Mandiwala, Maula Bux Chandio, Sherry Rehman and Rubina Khalid for this slot. The current chairman Raza Rabbani is not the priority candidate for PPP leadership. Asif Zardari wants to elect somebody who is loyal to him and at the same time acceptable to real powers of the country. Saleem Mandiwala and Sherry Rehman are favourites to win the PPP nomination for this election. Sherry Rehman is considered closer to both Zardari and real powers. Raza Rabbani is a loyal PPP leader but he is also a staunch democrat who opposes the political interference of the establishment. If Asif Zardari felt that he cannot elect somebody else as chairman senate then he might consider Raza Rabbani as the consensus candidate. Nawaz Sharif can also support Raza Rabbani as chairman Senate. Raza Rabbani is the best candidate for the chairman Senate to avoid the horse trading. Raza Rabbani is widely respected across the political spectrum.
Both PPP and PML-N wants to elect its own senator as chairman Senate. PML-N needs 20 more votes in the house to get the majority. If its allies Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP ) with 5 votes, National Party (NP) with 5 votes and JUI-F with 5 votes support PML-N then their total strength reached up to 48 senators. In this situation, it only needs support of MQM-P senators or some FATA senators to elect its chairman. MQM-P has 5 senators but they are divided in two different groups and its not known that which group has how many senators. If all 5 senators decided to support PML-N for the slot of chairman then PML-N can easily won this important slot. PML-N considering the names of senior leaders Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervaiz Rashid and Pir Sabir Shah for the slot of chairman Senate. Raja Zafarul Haq is favourite to become the candidate of chairman Senate from PML-N and its allies. But the party can put up a surprise name like female senator Marvi Memon from Sindh.
On the other hand PPP needs 30 more votes to elect its chairman. PPP not only need support from all the 8 independent senators from Baluchistan but also from FATA senators. If PTI decided to support PPP for the election of chairman then it will become very close contest. If PPP get support of PTI, independent senators from FATA and Baluchistan then it will come to 48 senators and still 5 short of required majority. After getting all the opposition parties behind it, PPP will still need either MQM-P or JUI-F to elect its chairman.
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20 March, 2019