ISLAMABAD: Pakistani legislators began voting to elect 48 Senators on Thursday with four already being elected unopposed from Sindh.
Members of the National and provincial assemblies voted through secret ballot to elect legislators in place of 52 Senators who retire from their seats in the Upper House of Parliament on March 11.
There were 132 candidates in the run for 48 seats. Four Senators from Sindh – two from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and two from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — have already been elected unopposed.
Polling began at 9:00 AM in the halls of the National and provincial assemblies and will concluded at 4:00 PM.
Polling time for Senate election extended in KP
The timing for provincial parliamentarians to cast their vote for Senate elections has been extended to 8:00 PM in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Polling in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was suspended after opposition leaders accused MPAs from the ruling party of rigging. PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf contacted the Election Commission accusing the KP provincial government of rigging. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has taken notice of the allegations and sought evidence from Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Opposition members put forward their demands for polling to resume which include ballot boxes being checked for blank ballots and those who have casted votes should be checked.
ECP Postpones Polling on FATA Seats
The Election Commission of Pakistan postponed the Senate elections for FATA seats on Thursday after a suspension of polling process since morning.
The ECP had consulted the Attorney General (AG) with regards to rescheduling it as Chief Election Commissioner Justice Sardar Raza Khan also chaired a high level meeting of ECP to come to a final decision.
Earlier today, FATA Returning Officer (RO) Usman Ali had filed a request to postpone the polling.
The suspension since morning came in the wake of a late night presidential ordinance which restricted MNAs from FATA to just one vote instead of four votes.
Voting Resumes in Punjab
Voting resumed in the Punjab Assembly after it was suspended following allegations by an opposition candidate that PML-N MPAs were showing their ballot papers to party leadership.
In other developments, a PML-N MPA Sobia Satti from Rawalpindi was injured when she arrived to cast he vote and was rushed to the hospital. She returned to the provincial assembly after being released from the hospital.
Sharmila Casts Vote on Wedding Day
PPP MPA Sharmila Farooqi arrived at the Sindh Assembly to cast her vote for the Senate elections despite today being her wedding day.
Speaking to Geo News the MPA said she was fulfilling her party responsibilities. “Today a record has been set that a bride is coming to cast her vote,” Sharmila said.
When asked about her wedding preparations, Sharmila replied she was excited.
Media Barred From Coverage
The Election Commission of Pakistan implemented restrictions on the media from covering the Senate elections. Journalists were first restricted from entering the KP then Punjab Assembly. They have also been barred from the National Assembly.
Provincial lawmakers will elect Senators from their respective provincial assemblies, while members of the National Assembly (MNAs) will elect Senators for two seats designated to the federal capital Islamabad.
11 MNAs will also vote for four seats allocated to the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The vote-counting process and announcement of results is expected to take place before the end of the day, but successful candidates will first have to submit details of their electoral expenses to the Election Commission of Pakistan before the notification of their election is issued.
The ECP has set a limit of Rs1.5 million for electoral expenses.
Successful candidates are expected to take oath on March 12 when the 52 outgoing Senators finish their terms.
Members of the National and provincial assemblies have been barred from carrying mobile phones or any electronic device that can take a picture during the Senate elections.
The Election Commission of Pakistan said it took the decision in order to protect the sanctity of the secret ballot and to discourage legislators from taking pictures of the ballot-paper to prove which way they have voted.
Pakistan’s Senate elections have in the past been plagued by horse-trading allegations and claims of legislators selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Much debate has taken place regarding whether the elections should be conducted with a show of hands or through secret ballot.
For the time being the elections will be conducted via a secret ballot under Article 266 of the Constitution of Pakistan.