Pak ruling coalition strengthens position in Senate

Pakistan`s ruling coalition has consolidated its position in the upper house of Parliament.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s ruling coalition has
consolidated its position in the upper house of Parliament as
it won a majority of 54 Senate seats that went to polls,
easing the pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari after a slew
of debilitating standoffs with the judiciary and military.

The win for the ruling PPP and its allies in yesterday`s
polls came in the wake of a strong performance by the party in
recent bypolls to 10 seats in the national and provincial
assemblies, giving it a further boost.

Yesterday`s polls were held to replace about half of the
members of the 104-seat Senate whose terms have come to an

After bagging 19 seats, the PPP has become the single
largest party in the Senate with 41 members, according to
unofficial results.

The Awami National Party, a key partner in the ruling
coalition, took its strength to 12 with the victory of its
seven candidates.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, another ally of the PPP,
won four seats to improve its position to seven. PML-Q too
bagged four seats.

Eight candidates of the main opposition PML-N won the
elections, taking its strength in the Senate to 14.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam won only four seats.
The combined strength of the opposition in the Senate now
stands at 22.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar and senior PPP
leaders Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsan were among the notable

Babar was elected from a seat reserved for technocrats in

For the first time, four members of minority communities
from the four provinces were elected to seats reserved for
them in the Senate.

These members are Kamran Michael of the PML-N in Punjab,
Harri Ram Kishori Lal in Sindh, Amar Jeet of the ANP in
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Heman Dass of the JUI in Balochistan.

However, the PPP suffered an upset in Punjab as its
candidate Aslam Gill was defeated largely due to ignorance of
the complex voting rules among PPP legislators.

The lawmakers did not cast votes for their second or
third preference, thus knocking Gill out of the contest.
The Senate, whose members serve for six years, plays a
key role in passing legislations.

After the Supreme Court began pressuring the PPP to
reopen graft cases against Zardari and relations between the
government and the powerful military were strained by the memo
scandal, there was speculation that the PPP might be forced to
put off the Senate polls and call an early general election.

PPP leaders, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani,
claimed that conspiracies were being hatched against the
government to prevent the holding of the Senate polls on
schedule as the opposition parties were apprehensive about the
ruling coalition securing a majority in the upper house of

Observers believe the PPP`s performance in the recent
bypolls and the Senate elections will give much-needed
breathing space to the party and beleaguered President
Zardari, who hailed the outcome of yesterday`s polls as "yet
another triumph of democracy."

In a message to the newly elected Senators, Zardari said
the successful completion of the elections has "proved that
democracy was functional and the policy of reconciliation was
showing results."

"The predictions of doom and gloom by the detractors of
the (PPP) and the democratic forces notwithstanding, the
government and the party have achieved yet another political
milestone by conducting two Senate elections in a row during
its tenure in office," he said.

However, the apex court has kept up its pressure on the
Prime Minister to reopen corruption cases against Zardari.
Gilani is currently facing contempt charges for failing
to act on the court`s orders.

The army too is believed to be opposed to Zardari and its
call for a probe by the Supreme Court into the memo issue is
seen as an attempt to pressure the President to quit.


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