Islamabad, Mar 12 (PTI) The Senate election in Pakistan got off to a noisy start on Friday with the Opposition claiming that spy cameras were installed in the polling booths set for senators to cast their votes for the chairman and deputy chairman of the upper house of Parliament.
The Senate is meeting to elect its chairman and deputy chairman through a secret ballot following the oath-taking of its 48 newly-elected members. Elections for the Senate were held on March 3, days ahead of the retiring of its members on March 11.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar claimed that he and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Musadiq Malik found 'spy cameras' above the polling booths.
'What a freaking joke. The Senate polling booth has secret /hidden cameras installed. SO MUCH FOR DEMOCRACY,' Malik said in a tweet.
He also claimed to have found another 'hidden device' in the polling booth. The opposition demanded that an investigation be carried out into who was 'in control of the Senate', the Dawn newspaper reported.
The protest prompted the presiding officer to issue directives for changing the polling booth, the report said.' The current polling booth should be removed, another should be set up afresh,' the presiding officer said. Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry responded to Khokhar's tweet, stating that it looked 'more like a CCTV cable' and that 'spy cameras are far more sophisticated'.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (PPP) and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri (JUI-F) have been fielded by the Pakistan Democratic Movement as its joint candidates for the posts of chairman and deputy chairman, respectively.
The government had already announced that outgoing Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani will be its candidate for office for another term. On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan nominated Senator Mirza Mohammad Afridi — a billionaire —for the post of the deputy chairman.
Though the Opposition enjoys a clear majority in the 100-member Senate to win both the seats, political pundits say it is going to be a close contest and any deviation from party policy and wastage of votes in the secret ballot can translate into an upset, the report said.
A tough competition is expected between the two sides in the House. The winner will need to get a simple majority of 51. The PDM - an alliance of 11 Opposition parties - claims that it has the support of 51 senators. Similar claims have been made by the government.
The two sides have been blaming each other for using money and other tactics to woo lawmakers to support their candidates. Gilani defeated Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Wednesday in Senate polls, giving a major blow to Prime Minister Khan, who had personally campaigned for his Cabinet colleague. Gilani secured 169 votes while Shaikh got 164 votes.
The Opposition had demanded the Prime Minister's resignation after the debacle following which Khan decided to take a vote of confidence on Saturday which he won comfortably.
The ruling party challenged in the Election Commission of Pakistan the victory of Gilani in Senate polls on the basis of alleged fraud, urging it not to issue notification of his election.
Senators are elected for six years but half of them retire after three years. A new chairman and his deputy are elected after three years to run the House. PTI MRJ AKJ MRJ