ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML-N was left high and dry by their trusted opposition ally, the PPP, after the latter refused to back the government-sponsored 22nd amendment and chose instead to present its own formula to combat horse-trading in the upcoming Senate elections.
In the recent past, the PPP had rescued the government when the protesting PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek were sitting outside parliament, then backed them again over the formation of the controversial military courts. However, in the latter case, there was also considerable pressure from the military and many in the party weren’t happy with the co-chairman’s decision to vote for the 21st Amendment.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was expecting the same generosity from Mr Zardari, but this time the PPP leader wants a trade-off,” said a participant of the meeting the government had convened to develop a consensus on open balloting in Senate elections. PPP leaders present in the meeting told the PM that instead of changing the constitution, political parties should devise a consensus formula and get their candidates elected to the Senate unopposed on the basis of their electoral strength.
Though the JUI-F sits on government benches, they also opposed the proposal to take constitutional measures against horse-trading, arguing that the decision will only taint politics and politicians in the country.
The response from the PPP and JUI-F, without whose support the government can’t secure the two-thirds majority necessary for the passage of amendment, has put the government on back foot.
In background discussions, leaders of the main political parties accused each other of playing dirty politics. “Can I ask why the PML-N has awarded a ticket to Ms Kalsoom Parveen in Balochistan, a sitting BNP-Awami senator,” a JUI-F leader asked. Since Ms Parveen was known for successfully manoeuvering voters her way, the ruling party had chosen her for the ticket, he said.
With just 4 members in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 8 in Punjab, why is the PPP still insisting on secret balloting? “Don’t go by our existing strength in the two assemblies; we are a former a ruling party and have trustworthy contacts,” a senior PPP office-bearer said.
According to the PPP source, the PML-N and PTI have joined hands to change the voting system fearing a backlash from its own MPs, “which we refuse to accept”.
On the other hand, the JUI-F which has 16 MPAs in KP and 8 in Balochistan, is also hoping that a few additional votes will return their candidates from the two assemblies.
A government source said that given the party’s strength, the PPP couldn’t win seats in KP and Punjab but could play the role of a spoiler, which the PML-N leadership was trying to avoid. “I personally believe the government shouldn’t hesitate to offer the odd seat to the PPP either in KP or Punjab and take the party onboard, because a loss in the presence of the required strength will be a major embarrassment for the government.” A similar arrangement could be reached with the JUI-F, he said.