On a general seat from the capital, an interesting and hot one-on-one contest between PDM candidate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh is expected to be seen.
Dr. Shaikh is currently serving in the cabinet of Imran Khan as finance minister and previously served in the same position when Mr. Gilani was the prime minister. He was also finance minister for the Sindh government after working in Harvard University and World Bank.
Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, 68, a former prime minister had also served as Speaker of National Assembly.
This competition is of great significance due to party’s position in the National Assembly where the ruling alliance has a majority.
“The MQM-P, GDA, BAP and PML-Q – we all are standing with each other,” Shaikh said while claiming a historic victory in senate elections. The people wanted that their leadership should be honest, and they found the PTI most suitable, he said.
As the PDM’s consensus candidate, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani having personal relations and family terms with many of lawmakers from Southern Punjab can give tough time to his opponent in the polls.
The ruling party’s disgruntled parliamentarians in the lower house of the parliament could go against the party’s line, as they have grudges for not giving them the top slot of Punjab.
The premier, who remains conspicuous by his absence from parliament, suspended most of his routine activities and spent the entire day in the lower house, holding meetings with disgruntled members of the ruling party and coalition partners.
Background discussions with the MPs revealed that Yousaf Raza Gillani has directly and indirectly sought the support of Southern Punjab lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
Federal Minister for Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who is the ruling coalition’s candidate for the Senate seat in Islamabad, was also seen meeting with MNAs throughout the day order to get their vote and support for the March 3 elections. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as well as several other stalwarts of the ruling party – including Defense Minister Pervez Khattak and PTI’s Chief Whip Amir Dogar – also went to the seats of various lawmakers and inquired about “their wellbeing”.
Throughout the session, most of the government members were seen huddling together with Shaikh walking from one row to another and chatting with those who usually do not get any attention.
Despite all these efforts, lawmakers from ruling parties are reportedly still not convinced to vote in favor of Shaikh as two PTI members from the Sindh Assembly announced that they will not vote for their party’s candidates, alleging that “a few candidates were given tickets only in exchange of money”.
MNA Amir Liaquat Hussain had also announced that he would not cast his vote in favor of Shaikh.
The ruling party [PTI] and its allies have total 178 seats while all Opposition parties including four independent lawmakers in the house have total strength of 161.