ECP clears 144 hopefuls for Senate elections

ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday cleared 144 candidates to contest the elections for 52 Senate seats scheduled to be held on March 5.
In last two-day scrutiny process, returning officers (ROs) rejected nominations of 40 candidates on different grounds, including tax evasion and loan default. The highest number of rejections came from FATA where 23 out of 43 aspiring candidates for four seats were barred from contesting the election, mostly for not filing income tax returns.
The ROs from Punjab rejected nominations of Saud Majeed, a PML-N candidate from South Punjab. This would add to discontent among the party’s MPAs from South Punjab who complain that their impoverished region is neglected by the party in awarding tickets.
Those whose nominations have been rejected can appeal against the ROs’ decisions in pre-election tribunals yet to be announced by the ECP.
This time around, the ROs were given feedback from nearly 11 departments about the credentials of every candidate. Earlier the ROs mainly focused on moral turpitude of candidates.
For two seats from ICT all nine candidates who filed nomination papers have been cleared. These include PML-N nominees Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Rahila Magsi. Nominations of their covering candidates have also been accepted. Interestingly, both Jhagra and Magsi are non-resident of ICT prompting criticism against them.
During the scrutiny process, PPP candidate Nargis Faiz Malik objected to Magsi’s nomination from ICT, pointing out that she was domiciled in Sindh. She also referred to the transfer of Jhagra from Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Islamabad. The RO, however, overruled the objections.
Moreover, Raja Imran Ashraf, brother of ex-prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, and former MPA Nargis Faiz Mailk are also in the run from ICT on PPP tickets. However, due to its numerical strength in the National Assembly, which votes for ICT seats in the Senate, the PML-N is confident to clinch both seats.
From Punjab, where a total of 11 Senate seats will be contested, 17 candidates are now in the run whereas 23 persons had filed nomination papers.
In Sindh, nomination papers of 18 candidates for seven general seats have been accepted. They include ticket holders of the PPP, MQM, PML-F and PML-N. For two women’s seats from the province six candidates will be in the run and four for two technocrat seats. Given the strength of the PPP and MQM in the provincial legislature – the two parties are confident to grab most of the 11 seats from the province.
Interesting contest is expected in K-P where PTI is in power. Sixteen candidates have qualified to contest for the seven general seats. Besides candidates from PTI, PPP, PML-N, JUI-F, ANP and Aftab Sherpao’s QWP, three independent candidates will also be contesting for general seats. Nine candidates have qualified to contest for two technocrat seats from K-P. Seven are in the fray for two women and three for one minority seat.
Like K-P, situation in Balochistan is also not clear. For seven general seats, 17 candidates have qualified including five independents. A total of 19 aspiring candidates had filed nominations for the category.
A nominee for a Senate seat needs to have a ‘proposer’ and a ‘seconder’ from among the MPAs of the respective assembly. This means for all those who qualified to contest have backing of at least two MPs.
For two technocrat seats from Balochistan nine, for two women seats six and for one minority seat six candidates have qualified to contest. Interestingly, name of a sitting woman senator from the province, Kalsoom Parveen, who is running for a second term, has been included in the list of accepted and rejected candidates in ECP’s record.
In the next step, the decisions of ROs for rejecting or accepting nomination papers could be challenged on February 23 and 24. These appeals will be heard on February 26 and 27. Subsequently, February 28 is the day by which anyone can withdraw his/her candidature including those who have qualified as covering candidates before a final list is displayed. Polling will be held on March 5.