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The Game is On!

The Senate episode poses a dilemma to the PTI-led government since Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoys a majority in the National Assembly, but this upset could be a turning point in his cruising dominance.

By Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi | March 2021

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The Senate has been the most thrilling of all the elections over the course of the ruling government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. From PTI claiming stretch of dominance over the PDM alliance to notorious rounds of horse trading; the nail-biting clash in the upper house culminated in the wildly unexpected victory of the former prime minister and joint candidate of the opposition alliance, Mr. Yousuf Raza Gilani. The close contest thumped the Khan regime in its aspirations to secure the house in a consecutive round after former Senate chairman, Mr. Sadiq Sanjrani, stepped down from the position.

The session fledged early amidst looming tensions of heavy horse trading committed both by the allied opposition and external characters imposing on the efforts of government to secure the majority dictated by its numbers in the National Assembly. However, soon after the initiation of the balloting, peculiar incidents marred the originality of the results before they were even announced. With PTI member of National Assembly, Mr. Shehryar Afridi, failing to vote correctly, a total of 7 votes were discarded due to not following the proper procedure. Many of the accused MNAs were frisked for any duplicate ballot papers and even a close eye was bated at the counting procedure that stretched over an hour after the voting concluded.

The results turned in favour of Mr. Gillani as he secured a total of 169 votes to be elected as senator from Islamabad; nudging out Mr. Hafeez Sheikh who only managed to secure a total of 164 votes out of a guaranteed 181 votes vouched under the house majority of government alliance. Strangely or otherwise, PDM alliance managed to eke out 5 additional votes from the National Assembly which eventually edged Mr. Gilani to be a viable candidate to chair the Senate for the next 6 years.

However, the Senate episode poses a dilemma to the PTI's alliance since Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoys a majority in the National Assembly; this upset proving to be a turning point in a cruising dominance so far. A renewed call, therefore, is made by PM Imran Khan to take a vote of confidence in the House to ensure that he still holds the majority support and is not a dummy captain. This unexpected announcement paves an opportunity for the PDM to strike while the iron is hot and topple the majority claimed by the PTI government. A no-confidence vote against the PM, on the one hand, might result in dissolution of the assemblies subsequently. However, a confidence vote won by Imran Khan would leave no doubt that the Senate Elections were rigged beyond measure.

Now as the new session of the National Assembly still awaits the acquiesce of President Arif Alvi, it is debatable as to what strategy would be adopted by the joint opposition alliance which has already mapped out its intent to launch a defiance as ‘Long March’ in the final week of March. Would the surprising victory in the Senate change the course of the Opposition or would the objective be served automatically post the vote of confidence, the thrilling chapter in the politics of Pakistan is yet to fully spread its wings in the upcoming days. The game is on!