Friday, February 6, 2015

Delicate decision for PML-N: Who’ll chair the Senate?

By Abdul Manan

February 6, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in a fix over selection of his party candidates for the Senate election, especially about the chairmanship of the upper house, as his family wants him to name a female chairperson while the senior PML-N leadership is in favour of appointing someone from Balochistan.

Sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune that the premier, who is in Lahore since Sunday, is continuously deliberating upon the March 3 Senate elections.

Out of 104 Senators, 52 are going to retire on March 11, 2015, including its current Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch.

Family matters

Sources said Nawaz, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Begum Kulsoom Nawaz are in Raiwind to discuss and finalise the Senate candidates.

They said the Sharif family has almost finalised the names of the Senate candidates during their deliberations in Murree and Raiwind but they are still mulling over who to appoint as the next Senate chairman.

Sources added that the party anticipates that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz will bag all 11 seats from Punjab, around four from Balochistan, two from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, two from Islamabad and one from FATA. Out of PML-N’s 16 existing Senators, eight are going to retire next month.

Balochistan in the running

Sources believe that Nawaz and his daughter Maryam are in favour of Nuzhat Sadiq as next chairperson of Senate. Sadiq’s father-in-law, Sheikh Masood, was the finance minister in Ayub Khan’s cabinet. However Sadiq’s one dilemma is that she belongs to Punjab.

However, it is said that Shahbaz conveyed to the PM the aspirations of the party’s legislators from Balochistan who want someone from their province to be named as the next Senate chief.

The argument trotted out goes like this: the party has given the country’s presidency to Sindh. The Speaker National Assembly is from Punjab while deputy speaker NA is from K-P. Therefore, the Senate chairman should now be from Balochistan.

According to sources, in view of the party’s tilt towards Balochistan for picking the next Senate chairman, three major groups within the PML-N have started their lobbying. One group is led by former premier Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali; the second group is headed by PML-N’s Balochistan President Sardar Sanaullah Khan Zehri; the third group is led by Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir.

It was revealed that Jamali’s cousin, Balochistan Assembly Speaker Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali, on Tuesday called on the Punjab chief minister and asked him to elevate Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as the next chairman Senate.

Senator Yaqoob Khan Nasir who is going to retire on March 11 is a candidate for another six years term of Senate and is lobbying for the chairmanship.

The other group led by Zehri and Malik Baloch are campaigning in favour of Lashkari Raisani. They say Raisani will be acceptable to PPP as well. Raisani also remained a PPP senator.  Punjab Government’s Spokesperson Syed Zaeem Qadri said that it’s the party leadership’s discretion to appoint the next chairperson Senate, and this would be decided in the coming days.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) Parliamentary Board for Senate election concluded its two-day sitting of conducting interviews of the 172 candidates for Senate.

The board in its first sitting on Wednesday conducted interviews of candidates having Punjab’s domiciles, where more than 96 candidates, who have applied for 11 seats of Senate from Punjab, appeared before the board.

According to an official handout, PML-N’s Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq chaired the board meeting while Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, Pervez Rashid, Khwaja Saad Rafique, K-P Governor Sardar Mehtab Abbasi and other members assisted him.

PM Nawaz was expected to chair the meeting but due to some family reasons he avoided to chair the meeting.

According to PML-N’s sources it has been decided within Sharif family that if Nawaz chairs or goes to any event or party meeting Shahbaz avoids attending that event. They said Nawaz had himself sent Shahbaz to conduct the interviews.

The parliamentary board on Thursday conducted interviews of candidates from the rest of the provinces and a few from FATA.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2015.

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