Polling for 30 vacant Senate seats in Pakistan concludes; counting underway

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Islamabad: Voting to elect 30 senators in Pakistan after their seats in the upper house of Parliament became vacant last month concluded on Tuesday and counting of votes is currently underway.

The polling held in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Punjab and Sindh continued with a break from 9 am to 4 pm. Respective members of the assemblies voted to elect senators.

Elections were postponed in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as 25 members elected on reserved seats were not given oath and the house or electoral college was incomplete. No date for a poll in KP has been given by the election commission.

Polling was held to elect two senators from Islamabad, 12 from Sindh and five from Punjab. Already all 11 senators from Balochistan were elected unopposed, while polling for the 11 senators from KP was postponed. A total of 48 seats were up for contest, which is half of the 96-member upper house.

Earlier, polling was postponed in the KP by the ECP “on account of delay of oaths of reserved seats” as the house was incomplete because 25 members elected on the reserved seats were not given oath by the speaker of the provincial assembly Babar Saleem Swati.

“The commission is of the considered view that the standards of honesty, justness and fairness of election as provided in Article 218(3) of the Constitution cannot be fulfilled due to non-administration of oath to elected members and which amounts to disenfranchisement of lawful voters and denial of level playing field to the voters,” the ECP said in a statement.

KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur vowed that he would not let the members elected on reserved seats to take oath as they were elected illegally as the seats were snatched from his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. He further said that the PTI would summon its parliamentary meeting and pass a resolution on the matter.

The Senate comprises 96 members, including 23 each from four provinces and four from the federal capital region of Islamabad. Those from provinces are elected by the respective provincial assemblies while the National Assembly elects one Senator from the Islamabad region.

The Senate is a continuous body as half of its members retire after three years and new ones are elected.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had announced plans to hold polls on 48 seats as four seats of senators who were elected from tribal regions were abolished after the region was merged with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of the country.

Before the merger, eight senators were elected from the federally administered tribal areas called Fata.

Already 18 senators were elected unopposed, including all 11 senators from the Balochistan province and the rest from Punjab and Sindh.

Polling was held at the National Assembly hall for the election of two senators.

Ishaq Dar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), part of the ruling coalition, and Raja Ansar Kayani of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a major opposition party, are vying for the technocrat seat while for the general seat, the competition is between Rana Mahmood ul Hassan of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), supporting the ruling coalition, and Farzand Hussain Shah of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

In Punjab, voting was held on two women and technocrats seats each and one minority seats of women in the province.

In Sindh, polling was held for 12 seats including seven general seats, two women, two technocrats/Ulema and one non-Muslim seat in the province.

Meanwhile, in KP province polling for elections on 11 senate seats could not be started due to controversy over the oath-taking of members elected on reserved seats.

Stakes are high as the ruling alliance of PML-N and PPP is expected to gain a two-thirds majority in the upper house, which will play a crucial role in case of any amendment in the constitution as a two-thirds majority is needed in both houses for the same.

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