Gilani’s success in Senate a major upset, and hard time for Imran Khan and his government

Salahuddin Haider

COMBINED opposition’s candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani for the Islamabad Senate seat, is not only a major, perhaps a historic upset , but is also huge embarrassment for Prime Minister Imran Khan, his 30-month old government which now he has to do real soul searching
Analysed deeply further, the voting result in the prestigious contest is simultaneously confusing , for, Pakistan Tehrilk-i-Insaaf lady candidate Fauzia Arshad defeated PDM nominee Farzana by 13 votes, final count being ‘174 and 161, and in case of Gilani-Hafeez Sheikh, it was 169 against 164, with 7 votes were wasted as invalid. This included the vote of Kashmir affairs minister Sheharyar Afridi, who dropped his ballot papers into the box, sat there comfortably for sometime, then requested the returning officer to issue him another ballot paper, as he, instead of marking on the numbers ,signed the ballot paper.

His request was refused, which was quite natural because if ballot papers fall victim to human error, it can be re-issued, as was done in case of Asif Zardari in Islamabad elections, and by PTI member of the Sindh Assembly Khurram Sher Zaman and by 13 MPAs from Khyberpukhtoonkhawa.

They had informed the polling staff of the mistake, but had kept the ballot paper in their hands. Prime Minister Imran Khan was furious on it.

He snubbed his cabinet colleague with some very harsh words> “ You are MNA, and you don’t know how to vote in elections.

This is really disgraceful”. Whether Shaharyar will remain his seat in the cabinet now or will have to quit, remains to be seen.

All said and done, it was real delight to see Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh embarrassing his former prime minister after results were announced which indeed sets new and very valuable tradition, for, such a scene had hardly been witnessed in country’s political history before. Now what? Is the biggest question which almost everyone is asking.

Will the result lead to opposition pressing a no-confidence move against the prime minister, which Peoples Party big wigs Asif Zardari and Bilawal had been talking about for more than a month.

Immediate reaction from Noon League’s Mohammad Zubair somewhat cautious.
He described the result as a” first step” towards PTI’s ouster, while BIlawal Bhutto too checked himself from going berserk or being over-jubilant. Bilawal repeated his old hymn of” democracy being the best revenge”.

But these were initial reaction. The opposition, which put up joint candidates in Centre, and Three provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pukhtoonkhaw, appeared to study its strategy for next 24 to 48 hours, before announcing its future plans.

Will the opposition feel it fit to initiate a No-Trust move in the national assembly, or will it force Imran Khan to seek a confidence vote afresh. Both these options, in experts’ opinion, does mean a substantial burden on PTI chief.

Senator Faisal Javed went on record few minutes after the results were announced by Chief Election Commissioner that Pakistan, not PTI, was the loser.

The 169-164 count for the Islamabad seat, showed massive horse-trading, against which Imran Khan has been campaigning for the last 22 years, and had gone for open voting in the upper house.

Today’s result, apart from being a surprise, relays several signals at the same time, the biggest being whether it was humiliation for Imran Khan alone or for PTI as a whole.

The ruling party has pre-voting strength in National Assembly of 181 against 169 of the 11-party alliance, called the Pakistan Democratic Movement.

The victory of Fauzia Arshad for the women seat showed that elements opposed to Imran Khan, probably aimed at embarrassing the prime minister.

Dislodging his government, or dissolution of the assembly, was secondary. If Imran decides to take a fresh vote of Trust, he can remain assured of being victorious for such a move will be in full public view, which in turn will prevent horse trading, unless of course, there is really a rebellion in the party, which seems highly unlikely.

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