Tit-for-tat victory!

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IN a repeat of what people of Pakistan witnessed on the occasion of elections for the Senate seats when Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh was defeated despite the Government and its allies having a numerical majority in the National Assembly, PDA candidates Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, on Friday, lost elections for the coveted slots of Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Senate despite opposition’s clear edge in the upper house.

Interestingly, ‘rejected’ votes played their role both in the victory and defeat of Gilani — he won when seven votes of MNAs were rejected on the occasion of polling for Islamabad seat and lost when an equal number of votes was rejected during elections for the office of the Chairman.

The Government is interpreting the outcome of the election for the offices of Senate and Deputy Chairman Senate as a ‘tit for tat’ for its defeat in the election for Islamabad seat of the house and makes no secret of its sentiments to have taken revenge of the previous defeat.

Irrespective of political gains and losses of the Government and the Opposition, the fact remains the nascent process of democracy is the ultimate loser due to the short-sighted policies of the political parties.

The controversy that began with the victory of Gilani as a Senator has deepened with the results of the polling for the offices of Chairman and Deputy Chairman, which are being viewed as tainted.

The developments highlight the need for genuine electoral reforms without which the credibility of the electoral process would remain questionable for all times to come given the political milieu of the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been emphasizing the need for introduction of transparency in the Senate election but the approach of the ruling party was also flawed in the sense that its proposal did not cover the elections of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman.

In the absence of open or identifiable balloting, the Government suffered during elections for the Islamabad seat and the Opposition was hurt on Friday.

There have also been allegations from both sides of receiving phone calls either threatening or alluring, then came the issue of installation of spy cameras in the polling booth and finally controversy emerged over the conduct of the presiding officer who declared eight votes ineligible, of which seven were stamped on the name of Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.

At a news conference, PPP leadership claimed that the seven Senators whose votes were rejected for not being stamped properly were “purposely disenfranchised” through the “illegal and biased” decisions taken by the presiding officer Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah.

The opposition has also announced to challenge the result (technical defeat) in the court of law whereas the Government’s legal guru Babar Awan says proceedings of Parliament cannot be challenged.

Irrespective of who is Chairman or Deputy Chairman, woes of the Government in the upper house would continue as the opposition still enjoys majority, making it difficult for the treasury benches to do legislative work smoothly.

Sadiq Sanjrani has, no doubt, proved himself to be a reasonable custodian of the house as he conducted the house deftly during his first stint.

However, he would remain vulnerable due to the fragile composition of the house where no party enjoys absolute majority and even the largest party could not field its own candidate.

The outcome of the Senate elections is a stark reminder to the Opposition that its option of no-confidence against the Prime Minister carries no weight.

Therefore, PPP might give up its proposal for the purpose and instead the Opposition is likely to concentrate on the long march.

However, there are also possibilities of misunderstanding among component parties of the PDM on the question of ‘rejected’ votes as PTI leaders are highlighting the point that some members of PML(N) deliberately spoiled their votes to deny victory to the PPP candidate.

In real sense, there are no winners of the Senate elections and the system is the loser.

Therefore, it is time for politicians and political parties to sink their petty differences and forge consensus on electoral reforms.

There is immediate need for de-escalation of the political tension and the Government should take a lead for initiation of a dialogue as it has more stakes in the system than the Opposition.

Peace of mind is a prerequisite for implementation of the agenda that the Government intends to implement in its remaining two years.