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    Monday, 12 March 2018

    PML-N pitches Raja Zafarul Haq against opposition-backed Sadiq Sanjrani

    Fifty-one newly elected Senators took oath in a ceremony held in Islamabad on Monday as the upper house of the parliament prepared to elect its new chairman and deputy chairman.
    Presiding Officer Yaqoob Nasar administered the oath for the Senators elected via polls held on March 3. Senators were then invited to sign the member rolls.
    Only Finance Minister Ishaq Dar did not take the oath as he is undergoing medical treatment in London and his election as a Senator is being contested in the apex court.
    Nomination papers of all four candidates — Sadiq Sanjrani and Raja Zafarul Haq for chairman, and Saleem Mandviwalla and Usman Khan Kakar for deputy chairman — were accepted Monday afternoon.
    Haq and Kakar find support from the ruling coalition led by the PML-N while Sanjrani and Mandviwalla are backed by the combined opposition.
    Candidates would be able to withdraw their nomination papers at any point before the house recommences for polling at 4pm.

    PML-N, allies announce candidates

    PML-N and allies met at the residence of PML-N leader Raheel Muneer in Islamabad to finalise the names of their candidates for chairman and deputy chairman slots of the upper house of the parliament, DawnNewsTV reported.
    PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq was chosen at the meeting to be the candidate for Senate chairman while the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Senator Usman Khan Kakar will contest for the deputy chairman slot, Senator Mushahidullah announced after the meeting.Mushahidullah said that his party and allies had the numbers to get their candidates elected for top positions. Both Haq and Kakar submitted their nomination papers after the announcement.
    Earlier, Marriyum Aurangzeb expressed hope that the party's nominated candidates would be elected as chairman and deputy chairman as PML-N enjoyed support of majority members of the house.
    She said the PML-N was the only major party that was not facing any allegations of horse-trading in the elections held on March 3. She also said Zardari and PTI chief Imran Khan had shook hands behind the scenes to attack PML-N.
    While talking to DawnNewsTV, Punjab Law Minister accepted that it was going to be close race but expressed satisfaction "because puppets of the non-democratic forces have been exposed."
    He accused Asif Zardari and Imran Khan of being "pawns of the establishment" and said their candidates are still a couple of votes behind the PML-N coalition's candidates. "This is a victory for democratic forces," Sanaullah said.
    Explaining Nawaz Sharif's proposal for candidacy of PPP's Raza Rabbani, he said that the party knew it would never happen as "the nomination was never in the hands of Zardari, and forces he [Zardari] has sold himself to would never allow [Rabbani's candidacy]."
    Besides Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), National Party and PkMAP, the Awami National Party (ANP) has also thrown its weight behind the PML-N backed candidates. ANP Senator Sitara Ayaz said its sole vote would go to the ruling coalition's candidates as the PPP had refused to field Raza Rabbani as its candidate for the slot of chairman.

    Fata backs Sanjrani

    The opposition, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the PPP, has named Sadiq Sanjrani, an independent senator from Balochistan, for the house's chairmanship while PPP's Saleem Mandviwalla has been proposed as the deputy chairman candidate.
    Both the candidates have filed their nomination papers.
    Sanjrani's position further strengthened prior to the polling as eight members from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) announced their support for him on Monday morning.
    Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan also announced its support for the opposition candidate for the post of chairman, however, said that they would not vote for the panel's deputy chairman candidate.
    "It would not be possible for us to vote for the PPP [deputy chairman] candidate [Saleem Mandviwalla]," Bahadurabad group's Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui announced after a meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddoos Bizenjo and Sanjrani. He clarified this was because of the PPP government's performance in Sindh.
    Sanjrani appeared confident of his victory and claimed he enjoyed support of over 70 members of the house, hinting at defections from the PML-N and its allies.
    However, even without defections, Sanjrani is in a strong position with support from PPP [20 votes], PTI [12 votes], Fata independents [8 votes], Balochistan independents [6 votes] and MQM-P [5 votes].

    'No bad blood'

    Earlier, members of the Senate arrived to attend the session presided by Nasar. Speaking to the media, outgoing chairman Raza Rabbani dispelled the impression of disagreements within the party and said that he stands with the PPP.
    He was answering a question regarding his reaction to PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari's comments casting doubts over the three-year stint of the party stalwart as the house's custodian and him siding with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. "Everyone has a right to their opinion," Rabbani said.PPP Senator Krishna Kohli, the first Thari Hindu woman to be elected to the house, arrived along with her family in traditional Thari attire. She expressed her desire to work on healthcare and water-related issues which she said were the the biggest problems faced by women in Tharparkar.
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