Some in PTI vying for Senate tickets

ISLAMABAD: With Senate elections due in March, many in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — a party which just a couple of months ago, at the peak of its sit-in, was bent upon wrapping the entire system and refused to be part of parliament which it alleged had come into being as a result of rigged elections – are vying for tickets to become part of the same house.

But to take part in the Senate elections, PTI chief Imran Khan will have to drop yet another precondition which he had repeated on numerous occasions during his party’s 126-day sit-in at D-Chowk. Mr Khan said he would not sit in parliament unless the government agreed to constitute a judicial commission to investigate allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections.

The party’s 34 members of the National Assembly have already submitted their resignations to the speaker, but he has yet to accept these.

Reliable sources in the party told Dawn that those having influence in the PTI were making their best efforts to persuade the chairman to take part in the Senate elections.

PTI’s senior leader Dr Arif Alvi, the only party member of the National Assembly from Sindh (Karachi), accepted the gravity of the situation. “To join the same parliament from which we have resigned is a serious issue which will be discussed at the party’s core committee meeting,” he said.

So far, according to him, the issue of Senate elections hasn’t figured in any of the core committee meetings, but surely the party leadership will take it up soon.

With the schedule for Senate elections is to be announced in the first week of February and the entire process completed within a month, the PTI hasn’t have much time on its hands.

Another senior leader of the PTI told Dawn that a few in the party had already conveyed to Mr Khan their desire to contest the elections for the upper house of parliament.

According to a source, PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen, the chief of its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wing, Azam Swati, and Punjab President Ijaz Chaudhry have emerged as top contenders to secure tickets. “Over the last couple of weeks, at least these three names are doing the rounds within the party,” the source said. During his visit to Peshawar on Wednesday, Imran Khan had sounded out the party’s provincial leadership about the suitability of these names for the Senate elections.

But Dr Alvi was of the opinion that it would be a tough call for the party to contest the Senate elections.

However, those in favour of contesting the elections argued that since the PTI had not resigned from the KP Assembly, there’s nothing wrong to have the first-ever representation in the Senate from the province.

The PTI has resigned from the Punjab and Sindh assemblies, while it has no representation in the Balochistan Assembly.

PROSPECTS: Half of the Senate’s 104 members will retire in March.

Considering PTI’s strength in the KP Assembly (46 members), where it’s heading the coalition government, the party has a fair chance to grab four to five seats in the Senate. In the Punjab Assembly, the PTI has 28 members and if it party takes back its decision on resignations, it has a chance to win one seat from the province.

Even if the party returns to the National Assembly, it has no chance to win two of the four Senate seats which will fall vacant for the federal capital.

The National Assembly members constitute the electoral college for the Senate seats reserved for Islamabad, where the ruling PML-N has a clear majority.

“The issue is not of the number of seats in the Senate, but the PTI’s decision to participate in the elections,” said a party office-bearer.

The PTI chief first backed off from his chief demand for the prime minister’s resignation and after the Peshawar school carnage, it called off its sit-in at D-Chowk.

Imran Khan has convened a ‘Dharna convention’ on Sunday (Jan 18) in Islamabad, where he will announce his party’s next move if the government fails to constitute the judicial commission by then.

“The government’s response to our demand for judicial commission will determine the party’s future course of action. Of course, if the government refuses to address our concerns, we are left with no option but to embark upon collision course,” said a PTI MNA.



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