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Senate for Sale?

by Newsweek Pakistan

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

The surprising results of the recently concluded polls suggest rifts within Pakistan’s major political parties

Prior to the Senate elections last week, many believed the polls would not take place because the PMLN-led government was too wobbly and might fall any time. However, once the provinces got busy electing their senators through secret ballot, speculation shifted to politicians being bribed into choosing members against their party wishes—for big money. The figure surmised went into millions of rupees. The results were therefore quite striking.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) got two more seats on the basis of its assembly members, which was taken to mean that some opposition Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) members were on the take. Two more seats it won in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa—where it has a small presence—also triggered rumors of big money applied by PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) surprisingly got ex-Punjab governor Muhammad Sarwar elected from the PMLN-dominated Punjab Assembly. Two other ex-Punjab governors, Mian Azhar and Ghulam Mustafa Khar, too had joined PTI but were not in the Senate race. PTI chief Imran Khan accused his partymen of having accepted bribes to abstain from supporting PTI’s own candidates but pointedly didn’t condemn Sarwar for winning on PMLN votes.

The law, instead of condemning those who vote for the opposition candidates, actually encourages them to vote according to their conscience through secret ballot. Therefore no party can legally punish its members for voting against instructions. The parties are in fact internally fractured and some of their MPAs and MNAs have voted to express their grievances. Instead of making it a handle for further verbal abuse, the affected parties should sort out their differences. The PTI, the most affected, is organizationally divided down the middle, the PMLN has members still offended with its “blaspheming” legislation, and the MQM has ill-digested its three-way schism after the ouster of its creator, Altaf Hussain.

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