Islamabad, Mar 11 (PTI) Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party's nominee Sadiq Sanjrani is expected to face a tough challenge from joint opposition candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani in the race for the chairmanship of the Senate on Friday after the former premier's surprise victory in the Senate polls that had rattled the ruling party led by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Pakistan Senate will meet on Friday to elect its chairman and deputy chairman through a secret ballot following the oath taking of its 48 newly-elected members.
Incumbent Senate chairman and the ruling party's nominee Sanjrani is vying for a second term while Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) candidate and former prime minister Gilani, who defeated finance minister in the Senate polls last week, is confident of giving another setback to the government.
A tough competition is expected between the two sides in the House of 100. The winner will need to get a simple majority of 51. The PDM - an alliance of 11 Opposition parties - claims that it has 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.
Ahead of the election, former prime minister and main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior vice-resident Shahid Khaqan Abbasi asked the military establishment to stay away from politics.
'We want to believe what the DG ISPR (inter-services public relations) had said that the army has no involvement in politics. It should be like this. But what happened in the Senate polls and Prime Minister Khan’s vote of confidence, it negated that statement of the DG ISPR,' Abbasi said.
Recently, ISPR Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar categorically denied that the army was involved in politics.
Abbasi said that the opposition does not want to blame anyone but senators should be allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz on Thursday warned the military establishment against interfering in the Senate chairman election.
Indirectly accusing the intelligence agencies, she said that her party's senators are receiving calls not to vote for Gilani for the slot of Senate chairman.
'Our senators are being called and asked not to vote for PDM candidate. Some of them have recorded the evidence,” Maryam tweeted.
She, however, did not specify as to who was holding such conversations with her party leaders.
According to the Senate Secretariat, the session will meet in the morning on Friday for oath-taking of the 48 newly-elected senators after which the session will be adjourned.
After the adjournment of the session, nomination papers for the chairman and deputy chairman will be submitted and the session would resume in the evening to elect them.
PDM has fielded Maulana Ghafoor Haidri of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) for deputy chairman while the ruling party has nominated Mirza Mohammad Afridi for deputy chairman.
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.
Elections for the Upper House of the Parliament were held on March 3, days ahead of retiring of its members on March 11.
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 SH RS ZH AKJ ZH ZH