Senate polls: votes go to highest bidder
March 09, 2012
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Monday declared the results of Balochistan Senate elections, which were withheld by the provincial Election Commission. Polls for 12 seats in the Senate from Balochistan were held on March 2 in which 63 out of 65 members of the assembly exercised their right of franchise. MPA Bakhtiar Domki and MPA Sardar yar Muhammad Rind did not cast their votes.
The results of seven general seats of the Senate from Balochistan were withheld over PML-N objections to the success of ANP candidate. Recounting was held on March 5 in the ECP in the presence of returning officers concerned and candidates. The commission retained the earlier results. According to results announced earlier, the PPP won four seats, PML-Q 2, JUI-F 3, BNP-A 2 and ANP one seat.
On general seats, PPP's Saifullah Magsi, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hasni and Yousaf Baloch, JUI's Hafiz Hamd ullah, BNP's Israr ullah Zehri, PML-Q's Saeedul Hassan Mandokhail and ANP's Daud Khan Achakzai hasvebeen declared as successful. For two seats reserved for women, out of the eight candidates BNP-A's Naseema Ehsan and PML-Q's Mrs Robina Irfan secured seats while for seats reserved for Ulema and technocrats, winners were Mufti Abdul Sattar of JUI-F and Rozi Khan Kakar of PPP. JUI fielded minority candidate Hemon Das won minority seat.
Meanwhile, extremely strict security measures were adopted around the provincial assembly during the Senate polls. The private media was stopped from covering the proceedings on the pretext of security.
The most unpleasant part of the Senate election was horse trading which included the sale and purchase of votes in the provincial assemblies, the Senate Electoral College.
Some quarters claim that the bid for votes has soared to a whopping Rs650 million, prompting speaker Muhammad Aslam Bhootani to appeal to the Supreme Court and the Election Commission to take action to ensure impartial elections. Complicating matters further, leaders of the National Party expressed surprise over the kidnapping of some relatives of MPAs before the Senate elections, saying this had put a question mark on the transparency of polls.
Most importantly, the false process in Balochistan Assembly went on openly where PML-Q’s Pir Abdul Qadir Gilani and son-in-law of former chief minister Balochistan Jam Mir Mohammad Yousuf called a press conference and announced that he would favour the PPP candidate in the Senate polls after agreeing to a last minute deal of Rs650 million worth of funds held for the last four years under the PSDP. Pir Qadir Gilani, flanked by the PPP provincial president Mir Sadiq Umrani, at a press conference said that his decision to accept the funds was made for the larger interest of his constituency.
The leadership of Baloch Nationalist Party, National Party (NP) expressed surprise over Gilani’s statement, saying it showed the worst kind of horse-trading in Balochistan and urged the Supreme Court and Election Commission to take notice of vote buying.
It has been learnt that PPP Balochistan President Mir Sadiq Umrani and the party’s parliamentary leader in the provincial assembly Ali Madad Jatak had allegedly been assigned the task of buying votes for Yousaf Baloch at all costs.
This was just one story; there is a long list of lawmakers getting paid fat sums to cast their votes in favor of one or the other party’s candidate. This is an absurd misrepresentation of democracy.
An NP spokesman said the interference of government in the Senate elections, buying support and the disappearance of relatives of some of the MPAs had put a big question mark on the transparency of elections. He appealed to the Election Commission to bar Pir Gilani from casting his vote in the elections.
In a latest development, PPP ticket holder for minority seat, Hina Gulzar from the Christian community has charged that she is being denied party support because of another “newcomer” Dr Ramesh Kumar. Gulzar said she was allotted ticket by the parliamentary board of the party but it was suddenly allotted to Dr Ramesh Kumar now. She says Dr Kumar had the backing of some influential party leaders and he got the ticket after striking a deal with them.
Unnecessary to say, the lawmakers are selected to play roles for the people, not to use their position as a money making enterprise.
The Election Commission must take a serious action against all these cases, and hold thorough investigations to duly punish everyone involved in selling or buying the votes. On March 5, Balochistan High Court (BHC) accepted a petition from Balochistan Assembly Speaker Muhammad Aslam Bhootani against Pir Abdul Qadir Gilani.
Lawyer Baz Mohammad Kakar argued that the MPA voted for the PPP candidate in the Senate elections after getting funds for his constituency, which was illegal. The petitioner also prayed to the court to freeze the funds and cancel his assembly membership.
A bench comprising BHC Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Qadir Mengal issued notices for March 12 and ordered Chief Secretary Balochistan not to release the funds. Rejecting the "propaganda of some private channels" of horse trading in the election, Ilyas Bilour called for positive and healthy reporting. Federal Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar expressed the hope that every political party in parliament would get seats as per its strength, saying the Senate elections would make democracy stronger. “First PML-N did not want the Senate elections and then it started crying for not winning more seats. If I win, the elections are fair; if you win they are unfair.”
The Senate polls are nothing short of a complex mathematical equation. It is the responsibility of the Chief Election Commissioner to hold and take measures for the Senate elections in accordance with the system through electoral colleges.