Gilani’s victory makes all ruling coalition MNAs suspects

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:58 PM, 4 Mar, 2021
Gilani’s victory makes all ruling coalition MNAs suspects

The outcome of Wednesday’s Senate elections on 50 percent of the seats exposed the vulnerability of the PTI government. It has proved that Prime Minister Imran Khan doesn’t enjoy the majority’s support in the house. It is because of this conclusion that he is going to seek a confidence vote from the National Assembly. 

It is beyond imagination how former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the PDM’s candidate for a general seat of the upper house of parliament polled 169 votes while ruling coalition’s nominee Dr Hafeez Shaikh could get only 164 votes. Seven votes were rejected.

While even this result is hard to digest former president Asif Ali Zardari has been quoted as saying in an interview that the leader from Multan should have won by a margin of 20 votes.

Another former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi says a total of 17 MNAs voted against the ruling party candidate, a development that should be an eye-opener for those in power.  

This result has made all MNAs of the ruling coalition suspects. Those who voted for the rival candidate or voted in a way that their votes were rejected for financial or any other consideration have tarnished the image of all those sitting on treasury benches. They are supposed to be Sadiq and Ameen but they are a saleable commodity. And unless such characters are identified – and there is no method available so far to trace such black sheep – fingers can and will be raised at all the treasury MNAs

It appears that the ‘hostile’ MNAs voted against Dr Shaikh for reasons best known to them. Otherwise, a PTI candidate Fauzia Arshad got as many as 174 votes from the same house. 

As a result of these elections, the PTI has emerged as the single largest party in the Senate, with PPP in the second position. However, even now the ruling coalition will be a minority group with 47 seats against 53 of the opposition parties. 

This means that even in the changed situation it will not be easy for the government to get laws passed without support from the opposition benches. 

Since the Prime Minister will seek a confidence vote – possibly through open vote as indicated by Federal Minister Shafqat Mehmud – the ‘hypocrites’ in the ruling coalition will now support him, resorting to hypocrisy for a second time. This will again mean that not all the MNAs in the assembly are honest and trustworthy, attributes mandatory for a legislator under the Constitution. 

In view of the premier’s confidence vote initiative, the PDM will not have to move a no-confidence motion nor resort to a long march or a sit-in in the federal capital. (No one should forget that PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz had said only a few days ago that it is possible that the opposition will not have to go for a long march). 

While people from various walks of life are finding Dr Shaikh’s defeat unbelievable BNP leader Akhtar Mengal stands vindicated by the election result. He had said only a day before the elections that the result would be an explosion of intensity that people would forget the May 28 nuclear blasts (carried out by Pakistan in 1998 to outmatch India). 

Of course, it was a quake of high intensity and will remain a subject of discussions for a long time. 

Another conclusion that can be drawn from the victory of Mr Gilani and defeat of Dr Shaikh is that compared to the leaders of the major opposition parties in the PDM, Imran Khan is just a ‘toddler’. His rivals have the same status in politics that Imran once had in the world of cricket. He will never be able to outmanoeuvre his rivals through the existing team of ministers/advisers. 

As a matter of “principle” there is little justification for the opposition to be proud of Mr Gilani’s victory through the votes cast by what they have insistently been calling a ‘fake’ National Assembly. (The status of the provincial assemblies that elected new members of the Senate were also branded fake). 

Now some people suggest that the prime minister should dissolve the assemblies and announce fresh elections. But analysts say that in the prevailing situation the PTI cannot afford to take such a risk.

If the Islamabad seat election result established the prime minister’s lack of majority in the lower house of parliament, general elections will mirror the party’s unpopularity at the grassroots level. The PTI shattered the hopes of the people who had supported the PTI in the 2018 elections as an alternative to the PML-N and the PPP. They took the PTI as a third option. But the performance of the Imran government has been a total disappointment. It failed to take the promised measures to give relief to the people. Most of the PTI supporters belonging to various walks of life feel betrayed. 

After all this the question is what role did the establishment play in these elections? Many opposition leaders said that it stayed neutral.  

If this is to be believed, the PTI stands no future without establishment’s crutches.  

The ruling party will have to hold serious consultations among themselves to be able to survive in the emerging situation. Predictably, the opposition will mount more pressure on the government in the days ahead. Opposition’s political interest demands that the PTI should not be allowed to stabilize.  

Let’s see how the PTI grapples with the new challenges.