Pakistani political leaders demand probe into Senate polls ‘horse-trading’

PPP candidates won two seats from KP, where Imran Khan’s party, is in power, despite having just six legislators

Islamabad: Several political parties in Pakistan, including the ruling PML-N, called for an investigation Tuesday into the alleged horse-trading in last week’s Senate polls.


Provincial and federal lawmakers voted to elect 52 Senators in the polls in which candidates backed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 15 of the 52 seats followed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

However, the poll outcome has been marred by horse-trading allegations with major parties demanding investigation. Political parties, including hreek-i-Insaf (PTI), PML-N and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), claimed that huge amounts of money was used to buy lawmakers’s votes.

Though the PML-N emerged as the largest party in the Upper House of the Parliament, its leader Nawaz Sharif blamed the political parties that secured more seats than their proportional representation in the provincial assemblies for “rigging the Senate elections.” He called for an inquiry to determine if the change of loyalty was due to change of heart, financial gain or some other factors.

At the same time, PTI chairman, Imran Khan, acknowledged that several his party members in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly betrayed the party and voted for candidates of other parties.

Khan said votes were purchased for up to Rs40 million (Dh1.32 million). He termed the outcome “disappointing”, and said the party has formed a committee to investigate the matter and warned of strict action against those involved in horse-trading.

Measures questioned

The PPP won two seats from KP, where Imran Khan’s party is in power, despite having just six legislators. The result surprised PTI chief Imran Khan, who later criticised the PPP. However, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari brushed aside the allegations, saying they convinced the assembly members to cast vote in favour of the PPP.

Khan has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take notice, saying: “I have been repeatedly whistle-blowing against money-driven voting practices related to Senate.”

Khan’s party had asked the ECP to replace the secret ballot system with open voting for Senate elections to check corrupt practices. He also questioned the measures taken by ECP, National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency to curb horse-trading.

The same demand was made by MQM-P leader, Dr Farooq Sattar, who has claimed that loyalties of 15 MPAs of MQM-P were shifted due to “threats and bribes”.

Sattar has decided to approach the Supreme Court and the Election Commission to take notice of the alleged horse-trading and pressure tactics in the Senate elections. “We have clear proof of election meddling, so we ask the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate the matter and monitor CCTV footage of the Sindh Assembly,” he urged.

At a press conference in Karachi, Sattar said the Senate elections had turned politics into business. “Part investigations reveal that more than 15 members of MQM-P were lured into securing Senate votes after which show-cause notices have been sent to six MPAs for violating party code.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief, Senator Sirajul Haq, has also demanded inquiry into the allegation of horse-trading. Haq has appealed to the chief justice to take notice of the Senate election “where parliamentarians allegedly cast votes for financial gains and other benefits”.

The JI leader cautioned that “true democracy and fair elections are the only solution to all of our [national] problems. If threats, rigging and corruption are not eliminated from democracy and politics, people will lose their faith and trust in elections”.

Pakistan’s upper house of Parliament, the Senate, will elect a new chairman and deputy chairman on March 12.

In a related development, the Supreme Court has halted the notification of four candidates elected to Senate for allegedly holding dual citizenship. The court directed the ECP to halt the notification of Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar of the PTI and Haroon Akhtar, Nuzhat Sadiq and Saadia Abbasi of the PML-N, and issued them notices.

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