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ISLAMABAD: The process of much-talked about Senate elections begins on Monday with submission of nomination papers by candidates to the offices of the Election Commission in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals.
According to the schedule announced last month by the commission for elections on 54 seats for a six-year term (2012-2018), the nomination papers may be submitted by 4pm on Tuesday. The papers will be scrutinised on Feb 16 and 17. Appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers will be disposed of by the EC on Feb 22 and 23. The papers may be withdrawn on Feb 24 and the EC will display the final list of candidates on the same day. Polling will be held in the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies on March 2 and the senators will be required to take oath on March 12. The present Senate comprises 100 members but the 18th Amendment has increased its strength to 104 with each provincial assembly sending one minority member to the Senate. Now the Senate has 23 members each from all the four federating units, eight from Fata, and four from Islamabad. The 23 seats allocated to a province comprise 14 general seats, four reserved for women, four for technocrats and one for minorities. The term of a senator is six years, half the senators retire every three years and elections are held to elect new members on the vacant seats. Elections to fill seats allocated to each province are held under the “system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote”. Fata senators are elected by members of the National Assembly from the area whereas the four senators on the reserved seats from Islamabad are elected by the members of the National Assembly. Almost all political parties have finalised their candidates, but only a few of them have officially announced their names. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which stands to gain most of the seats in the polls had received over 470 applications and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) which is set to win most of the Punjab seats about 200 applications. The Jamaat-i-Islami will be the only party which will lose complete representation in both houses of parliament because it had boycotted the 2008 general elections. The PPP is set to become the single largest party in the upper house for the first time in the country’s post-Ziaul Haq era history of three decades. Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the party had reached an understanding with all its coalition partners and it was expected that most of the candidates would return to the Senate unopposed. The sources said the PPP had decided to support its coalition partners, including the PML-Q, ANP, PML-F, MQM and Balochistan National Party (Awami) on about 12 seats. The most surprising exclusion from the Senate will be that of Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh. According to sources in the party, the PPP had given the ticket to a loyalist in his place. Prominent among those who are reported to have been asked by the leadership to file nomination papers on general and reserved seats are Raza Rabbani, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Farhatullah Babar, Saeed Ghani, Babar Awan, Aslam Gill, Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hasni, Dr Karim Khwaja, Aijaz Dhamrah, Panah Odho, Hari Ram, Rashid Rabbani, Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hasni and Khalida Mohsin. The wife of Babar Awan, who is facing contempt charges in the Supreme Court, will also submit her nomination papers as a covering candidate for her spouse. The PML-Q will be the biggest loser in the Senate because 20 of its 21 senators are retiring in March. Party president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain will be left as the sole representative of the party in the upper house. However, after a seat adjustment with the PPP, the PML-Q is now expected to get seven to 10 seats.The sources said the PML-Q leadership had nominated former leader of opposition Kamil Ali Agha and the party’s general secretary Mushahid Hussain to contest the election from Punjab and Islamabad, respectively. The PML-N has seven senators and only Ishaq Dar is retiring in March. However, the party is expected to win another seven seats and its total membership in the upper house will become 13. The party has officially announced its seven candidates.