Balochistan attracts the attention of the whole country on the eve of Senate elections because of open horse-trading by the members particularly the mainstream political parties Balochistan assembly members having the strength of 65 have been involved in wheeling and dealing for a long in electing senators. Prime Minister Imran Khan recently said a senate seat from Balochistan would cost PKR 600-700 million. His minister for planning and development Asad Umar while quoting intelligence agencies report in a TV talk show claimed that a seat of the upper house from this province costs PKR 450-500million.
In Balochistan, one needs minimum eight votes to become Senator on a general seats (7 seats) while needs the highest numbers on two each technocrats and women and one minority seats. Compare to other three provinces and federal capital, it is easy for the candidates in Balochistan to convince or buy a small number of voters.
PTI’s intention to bring a change in senate election through show of hands by bringing the law through Presidential ordinance and under Supreme Court guidance may help the political parties in stopping their members from floor crossing but may hardly stop the members in Balochistan or KPK to sell their votes to their party nominees.
However there would be much difficulty for independent candidates to buy votes through show of hands against the wishes of political parties.
The game of wheeling-dealing of votes by assembly members continues since 1988. The amounts of money involved were paltry early on but have ballooned in several iterations over time. Today, a member who gets involved in the trade earns PKR 40-50 million.
Such members contend that they return to assemblies after spending huge amount in the elections, so their earnings in the Senate election season are justified. Normally the members of mainstream political parties like Muslim Leagues and People Party are involved in this practice while the MPAs of nationalist and religious parties follow their party’s discipline.
However a bad example was set in the history of Balochistan when the whole 6-member parliamentary group of the Pakistan National Party allegedly sold out to Syed Ehsan Shah in 1991 elections for PKR 6 million. However Nawab Aslam Raisani, the former Chief Minister refused to accept the money and did not cast his vote.
It is also history, Balochistan made that even the business tycoon from outside of the province came and bought votes and headed to the Senate with the help of local political personalities.
Among such have been Akram Wali Mohammad (PML-Q, 2003 to 2006), a businessman from Karachi and Yousaf Baloch (PPP, 2006-2012), a builder, also from Karachi. Wali was the nominee of former Prime Minister late Zafarullah Jamali while Baloch was the candidate of former President and PPP cochairman Asif Ali Zardari.
After their election, these candidates were never seen visitingBalochistan or spend- ing a single penny of their development funds in the province. Although they have been participating in the senate sessions, no one heard of them speaking ever over the issues of Balochistan and its people.
These Senators used to say, their close circle claim, they don’t owe to Balochistan and their people as they have purchased the votes.
Other people from Karachi who tried their luck but could not make their way to the Parliament include Zarat Khan, Saddarud- din Hashwani, and Hussain Islam.
Interestingly, a Karachi based business tycoon filed his nomination papers for the 2018 senate elections on reserved seat for technocrat, but his papers were rejected on all fora. He allegedly had already paid the money to his voters who refused to refund.
To resolve the issue, the same candidate was appointed advisor to Chief Minister for fisheries, a very lucrative portfolio and was asked to try his luck whether he earns less or more than he invested for buying assembly members. This time, he didn’t file his nomination paper as was not allotted the party (Balochistan Awami Party) ticket.
The ruling BAP is also facing difficulties as more tickets were allotted than their members can elect. Out of 12 senate seats, ruling coalition claims to have 8 while 23 member opposition parties expect 6 seats.
The ruling coalition partners Awami National Party and Balochistan National Party (Awami) with 4 and 2 MPAs fielded their candidates.
The BAP has agreed to support ANP in return for its support in the previous Senate elections while asking BNP(A) to support its candidates by withdrawing its nomination of Mir Israr Zahri, the party head.
In the given circumstances, BAP-ANP coalition may easily win three general seats, one each woman and technocrat and the only minority seat. If works really hard, it may bag total seven seats.
Saeed Ahmad Hashmi, a senior parliamen- tarian and Chief organizer of ruling the BAP is facing newcomer Naveed Kalmati, a businessman with links to both Gwader and Karachi. Samina Zahri, belonging
from an affluent family was awarded party ticket and has clear chances to win. Denash Kumar, the owner of a brewery at industrial town of Hub, Balochistan and the sitting MPA has clear chance to win on minority’s reserved seat.
An interesting contest is developing within BAP party on general seats. Sitara Ayaz, Sarfaraz Bugti, Abdul Qadir Hassan, Munzoor Kakar and Aurangzaib Jamaldini are among the influential ones. Sitra and Bugti have bright chances while one has to be chosen from the rest.
Hassan, having the support of Chairman Senate Sadiq Sunjrani may win. Sitara who is going to complete her six-year term on ANP’s ticket had switched her loyalties by voting for Sadiq Sunjrani on the eve of the no-confidence motion against him has joined BAP and has been awarded a ticket to Senate from Balochistan.
The Jamiat Ulema Islam (Fazal) with its 11 assembly members has three candidates – two on general seats and a technocrat. They include Maulana Ghafoor Haideri and a new face Khalil Buledi and a senior lawyer Kamran Murtaza.
Balochistan National Party with its 10 seats fielded Pashtoon (a first) Sajid Tareen and Qasim Ronjo on general seats and retired educationist Tahira Ehsas Jattak on a reserved seat for women.
The independent member Nawab Aslam Raisani has already announced to support JUI-F while another member Nawab Sanaullah Zahri may vote for the ruling coalition.
Pashtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party with its only seat fielded its secretary General Usman Kakar in the hope to become the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). Neither party is prepared to sacrifice its 5 or 6 votes for the other, the PkMAP having only one vote.