Islamabad, Mar 12 (PTI) Pakistan government-backed candidate Sadiq Sanjrani on Friday won another term as chairman of the Senate, in a relief to Prime Minister Imran Khan who suffered a humiliating defeat last week when his nominee lost in a keenly-fought election to the upper house of Parliament.
Sanjrani, 42, the incumbent Senate chairman who was backed by Prime Minister Khan's alliance, defeated joint Opposition's candidate and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, 68.
Sanjrani polled 48 votes while Gilani got 42 in the 99-member Senate, dealing a blow to the joint Opposition despite having a majority in the Upper House. A total of 98 senators voted in the election.
Eight votes were rejected out of whom seven were stamped on the name of Gilani.
The Opposition challenged the result with Ginali’s son Qasim Gilani announcing to approach the Election Tribunal. He said that the seven votes could not be rejected as they were stamped on the name of the candidate.
However, presiding officer Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, who announced the results, overruled the objection, saying the votes were rejected because they were not stamped correctly. One of the votes was rejected because it had been cast in the favour of both the candidates.
Gilani and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri (JUI-F) were fielded by the PDM as its joint candidates for the posts of chairman and deputy chairman, respectively.
The government had announced that outgoing Senate chairman Sanjrani will be its candidate for the office for another term. On Thursday, Prime Minister Khan nominated Senator Mirza Mohammad Afridi for the post of deputy chairman.
Gillani served as prime minister from 2008 until his disqualification and ouster by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2012.
The polling day was marred by discovery of hidden cameras and microphones installed at a polling station which the Opposition termed a scandal like that of ‘Watergate’. The Senate polls are held through a secret ballot, according to the Constitution.
The Opposition indirectly pointed at a spy agency of the country for this job as the government’s candidate Sanjrani is reportedly backed by the military establishment.
The 11-party Opposition alliance -- Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) -- had fielded Gilani.
A day before the poll, the ruling Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had made its senators take an oath on Quran to vote for Sanjrani.
The polling began after 3 PM and closed at 5 PM. Of the House’s 99 senators, 98 cast their votes.
Jamaat-e-Islami, that had one senator, boycotted the polls, saying that both the government and Opposition do not deserve its vote.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s senator Ishaq Dar, who is a close relative of former premier Nawaz Sharif, is absconding in the UK.
Amidst a controversy over the sale and purchase of votes and allegations by the major Opposition parties the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) that the institutions were involved in “political engineering” and their lawmakers were being pressured to vote for the government candidates.
Sanjrani took the oath of the chairman and then held the election for the deputy chairman Senate.
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was fielded by the PDM as its joint candidate while Mirza Mohammad Afridi, a billionaire from Federally Administered Tribal Areas, was the ruling party’s candidate.
Afridi has been elected as deputy chairman, defeating Haideri. Afridi got 54 votes while Haideri secured 44 votes. Of the total 100 votes in the upper house, 98 were cast. No vote was rejected.
The Opposition has 52 members in the upper house while the ruling coalition has 47 senators.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has written a letter to the presiding officer, asking him to form a Senate committee to investigate the incident involving spy cameras.
“We have discovered four cameras obviously installed to record votes to be cast during the scrutiny of the polling booths. The incident is a great blow to democracy, rule of law, the Constitution and the recent opinion by the Supreme Court that the Senate polls be held by secret ballot,” the letter says. PTI MZ/MRJ CPS AKJ CPS