Winning the Senate was important for the PTI and, in the end, it managed to do just that. However, it remains to be seen how the Party will use this advantage for better legislation.
The defeat in the Senate elections of PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh against Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, a former prime minister and speaker, despite PTI’s clear majority in the National Assembly, seemed to have unnerved Imran Khan, while also upsetting the whole PTI leadership. Encouraged by this victory, the PDM should have done all within its powers to replace Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani with Yousuf Raza Gilani, since Sanjrani had reneged on his promise to join the Peoples Party, as claimed by Bilawal. However, due perhaps to non-cooperation from the PML-N, Sanjrani managed to defeat Gilani by 48 votes to 42, with one vote rejected for double-stamping and another seven for misplaced stamping. The opposition’s defeat in the election for Deputy Chairman Senate by 54 votes to 44 frurther weakened its case.
Surely, PTI’s doubts about the loyalty of some of its members made it seek open balloting for the Senate election. Lacking two-thirds majority for constitutional amendments, PTI tried various measures, including an ordinance which just fizzled out, as well as a Presidential reference, seeking the Supreme Court’s opinion on the issue. However, with a four to one majority, the Supreme Court expressed its opinion that the Senate elections will continue to be held through secret ballot, as required under Article 226 of the Constitution, while also stating that the secrecy of the ballot papers was not final, as already decided by the court in the Niaz Ahmed case.
The Supreme Court also stated, “The Election Commission is required to take all available measures including utilizing technologies to fulfill its solemn constitutional duty to ensure that the election is ‘conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices are guarded against”.
The PTI government interpreted this as permission for bar-coding of the ballot papers which , while keeping the vote partially secret, would nevertheless enable the ECP to identify and punish the culprits, if wrongdoing were to be established.
Shocked by Hafeez Shaikh’s defeat, Imran Khan accused 16 PTI lawmakers of selling their votes, and sought a confidence vote in the National Assembly.