Senate elections : Voting for 52 Senate seats starts today

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ISLAMABAD: The Senate elections on the 52 seats will be held today (Saturday) with 131 candidates contesting in the electoral arena.

For Islamabad’s two seats, five candidates are in the field, for Punjab’s 12 seats, there are 20 candidates, 33 candidates are vying for Sindh’s 12 seats, 26 candidates are in the field for 11 seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 23 for Baluchistan’s 11 seats and for four seats of Fata, there are 24 candidates. Each provincial assembly will elect seven senators on general seats, two on technocrat seats and two on women seats for a total of 11 seats, while Sindh and Punjab will additionally elect a minority member each.

It is widely speculated that the results at the Balochistan Assembly will greatly impact the seating position of the PML-N, which is poised for a leading position in the Upper House of the Parliament. The Senate consists of 104 seats, where half of its members will retire on March 11, leading to new political alignments inside and outside the legislatures. The ruling PML-N will be contended with its candidates vying for the Senate seats as independent candidates.

Polling will start simultaneously at the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies at 9:00am and continue without break till 4:00pm amid tight security, as services of the Pakistan Rangers and the Frontier Corps (FC) have been sought by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Just a day before the election exercise, the Election Commission de-notified Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) MPA Manzoor Ahmad Kakar from PB-6, Quetta-VI on the basis of defection clause under Article 63A of the Constitution, who had violated the party line and voted for Abdul Quddus Bizenjo during his election for the slot of chief minister. The Election Commission has also served a notice on a sitting PML-N MPA Haji Malik Waheed for breaching secrecy of vote during by-election in Punjab Assembly on March 01. The breach could cost him suspension as lawmaker. According to the report furnished by the returning officer and sent to the Election Commission Secretariat, the legislator had showed the ballot to ruling PML-N lawmaker Bilal Yasin before putting it in the ballot box. The chief election commissioner asked for issuance of a notice to Malik Waheed.

The ECP has issued a code of conduct for the Senate elections, which says the members of national and provincial assemblies are required to bring along their secretariat cards in order to cast votes. In addition, mobile phones will not be allowed near the polling station. Also, vote is to be cast secretly, and those violating the secrecy will be punished on the spot.

Moreover, according to the code of conduct, the use of fake ballot paper will result in legal consequences. The returning officers, who have been given the powers of magistrates, will have the power to take immediate action if anyone is found taking the ballot paper out of the station or handing the same over to an unauthorised individual. The returning officer can also cancel the ballot paper altogether.

The Election Commission has got printed 1,600 ballot papers for Punjab, 800 for Sindh, 600 for KP, 300 for Balochistan, 800 for Islamabad and 50 for Fata. The ballot papers have been handed over to the respective returning officers.

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