Why is Pakistan PM Imran Khan staring at another defeat in Senate?

New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Mar 11, 2021, 06:45 PM IST

Pak PM Imran Khan (FILE) Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday rejected a petition by Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, challenging former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani's upset win in the Senate elections, ruling that it was not appropriate to 'unnecessarily drag' the judiciary in political matters

A bitter battle is underway in Pakistan for the chairmanship of the Senate. The candidates for the election include Sadiq Sanjarni, the youngest ever chairman of the Senate in the country. and Yousaf Raza Gilani, the country's former prime minister and the newly elected senator from Islamabad.

Fearing another embarrassment, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had filed a petition in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) stating that Gilani's victory in the Senate polls should be declared null and void as the elections were not transparent.

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday rejected a petition by Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party challenging former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani's upset win in the Senate elections, ruling that it was not appropriate to "unnecessarily drag" the judiciary in political matters.

The government's allegations were based on a video of Gilani's son Ali Haider talking with some PTI members and telling them how a vote can be "spoiled".

The PTI, in its petition, said that since seven votes were "spoiled" in the Senate elections and its candidate lost by just five votes, it showed that the PTI lawmakers in the video were bribed.

Refusing to take action on allegations of vote-buying in the polls just on the basis of video clips, the ECP urged the government's lawyer to make all persons involved in the video scandal a party to the case and said that if the charges of giving and receiving bribes are proven, then action should be taken against all the culprits.

The IHC on Wednesday also rejected a plea to disqualify the former premier's son who is a provincial lawmaker.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan has alleged that senators belonging to the ruling PTI were being offered money to vote for Gilani.

"The Opposition used the money to win the Islamabad seat," he said while referring to Shaikh's loss to Gilani. He added that the same people were active to influence the election of the Senate chairman. 

Gilani, who contested the Senate election as a Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate, defeated the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate and Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh by securing 169 votes against 164 votes by Shaikh on Wednesday, giving a major blow to Khan, who had personally campaigned for his cabinet colleague.

The Opposition had demanded the prime minister's resignation after the debacle, following which Khan decided to take a vote of confidence on Saturday, which he won comfortably.

Pakistan's Opposition parties on Monday nominated Gilani as their joint candidate for the Senate chairman election scheduled for later this week.

To endure Gilani's victory, the PDM, an alliance of 11 political parties, reached out to the Muslim league Quaid-i-Azam, an ally of Pakistan's government. It also nominated Maulana Ghafoor Haidri of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) for the post of deputy chairman of Senate.

In an effort to sway votes in a tight competition, the government offered to support Haidri if his party supported Sadiq Sanjrani, who is supported by the government for the Senate chairmanship. However, Haidri rejected the offer, saying the Opposition is united and in consensus.

While on Tuesday, it seemed to get support from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Although neither of the two parties promised their support, Imran Khan is a bit unnerved as he fears these parties might end up cross-voting at the last moment.

There are a total of 100 seats in the Senate, Imran khan's party, along with its allies, controls 48 seats while the Opposition controls 51 seats. 

Fearing himself to be on a sticky wicket, Imran Khan has a plan to spin the narrative. This plan centres around Gilgit-Baltistan, which falls in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The assembly in Gilgit-Baltistan has adopted a resolution demanding that the region be declared an interim province. The resolution was passed on March 9, the same day the PTI in Islamabad was trying to woo the Opposition.

The region is ruled by the ruling PTI. It is significant as it is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. It includes large parts of the greater Kashmir region.

The Indian Parliament has already passed a resolution defining the whole of Kashmir as an integral part of India.

Pakistan on the other hand, has always claimed Gilgit-Baltistan as part of its territory. However, it has never declared it a province.