WITHIN less than ten days of romping home with an unlikely win over the Government
candidate for the crucial Senate seat, the Pakistan Democratic Movement has tasted a bit of its own medicine in the coup de grace inflicted upon it in the Upper House; the loss by Yousaf Raza Gillani at the hands of the sitting Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani who outsmarted not just Gillani but also his mentor Asif Ali Zardari whose buying out tactic backfired this time, with a replay of Gilani’s Election as Senator, despite minority in the Electoral College to the Senate compared to the Government Coalition.
Some Horses had obviously been traded then but not before a manoeuvring video of Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son was made and released through a sting operation by a couple of PTI Jialas posing to have taken his lucrative offer and recorded his tuition of how to get their vote rejected which went viral, but the Election Commission took no note of the foul play.
Some vulnerable horses traded successfully in the process indicated two things; one that these individuals may have been dissatisfied with the PTI leadership’s attention to their problems and fell for the bait, and second that they did not endorse Hafeez Sheikh’s candidature.
The atrocious gamesmanship among Parliamentarians in the run up to election in the Upper House which is supposed to be the supreme body in the parliamentary system prompts not to ignore commenting on the genesis of the ensuing battle for control over the Senate, critical to the future political direction of the country, which is currently being tainted with unhealthy practices of horse-trading brought into the play by Asif Ali Zardari who gained currency by turning the tables in the last Senate elections by buying out PTI Senators and defeating an exercise which hitherto had been transparent.
Imran Khan then took the risk and showed courage to throw out those members from his party who had sold out.
All kinds of ploys including buying out members, invalidating votes where the compliant have shown limited courage, holding members hostage, sting operations, threats and blackmail and stirring up controversies have since been employed.
A storm in the tea cup was sought to be created by the Opposition prior to the polling exercise showing tantrums over placement of cameras in the polling booth which according to an analyst had for ever been there but no one ever objected.
This obviously was a tactic to bring the treasury benches under pressure.
Imran Khan earlier, immediately after Hafeez Sheikh’s defeat, had voluntarily sought a vote of confidence; catching the Opposition off-guard which boycotted the vote and abstained from the proceedings in nervousness and instead engaged the PTI supporters in an ugly confrontation outside Parliament.
With the walk-over at the vote, Government candidate Sadiq Sanjrani redoubled his personal contacts to elicit support while Imran’s team went about reminding the Senators about Yousaf Raza Gillani’s past credentials of being disqualified twice in not writing for recovery of Zardari riches stashed abroad, and the necklace story.
Zardari tactics backfired this time in the face of the proverbial truth that pride hath a fall; Firstly taking Sanjrani lightly despite him not living up to the promise to join the PPP after the last Senate elections, while he consolidated his Chairmanship by excellent rapport with several Opposition Senators during his first half term in office.
Zardari tested him by bringing a vote of no confidence by show of hands against Sanjrani which failed at the secret ballot.
And secondly, some Senators applying the training given to purchasable commodities by Gilani’s son during his father’s election to the Senate on how to get their vote invalidated.
Worst still the independent candidate from FATA Mirza Mohammad Afridi who had lately joined the PTI and was fielded for Deputy Chairmanship by the Government, surprisingly won hands down against the much touted Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI pitched collectively by the PDM, by a handsome margin of 10 votes; some attributing it to internal fissures and disenchantment within the Opposition Alliance and others interpreting it as reflection of the major parties reservations over Maulana Fazlur Rehman reaping the spoils of the Movement.
Within an hour of the ruckus created by the opposition over vote invalidation, Mirza Afridi bagged 54 votes to Ghafoor Haideri’s 44, which reflected that those seven invalidated Opposition votes had been cast by design and not by default in that manner which they made clear in voting for the Government for Deputy Chairmanship when no vote was invalidated and all were cast.
This also throws out the case evidence of Supreme Court ruling terming technical invalidation as signifying favourable intention of the candidate stamped for by the voter.
Much against the moral ascendency achieved by Imran Khan’s PTI in accepting defeat and its losing candidate Hafeez Sheikh hugging Yousaf Raza Gilani over his win as Senator, it was a sorry sight to witness the PDM behaving like bad losers in not only refusing to concede defeat but making a laughing stock of themselves with Farooq H Naek polling agent for Yousaf Raza insisting that the Senators whose votes were rejected did nothing wrong in stamping on the name of the candidate, whereas not only Sanjrani’s polling agent Mohsin Aziz read out polling directions of the Senate clearly saying that the voter must affix the stamp in front of the name of the candidate, but also the Senate Secretariat seen repeatedly correcting Farooq Naek in a video prohibiting the voter from stamping on the name of the candidate.
It was a sorry sight that noted PPP stalwarts like Sherry Rehman, Saeed Ghani and Qamaruzzaman Kaira were heard misquoting the Senate Secretariat as allowing stamping at any portion of the box carrying the name of the candidate.
As far as one remembers, Hafeez Sheikh’s votes were also rejected on the same grounds and the Opposition found nothing wrong with the reasons for invalidation then.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.