Final Shape

Piecemeal, delayed, disputed, and disrupted – the Senate polls finally took place on Tuesday, bringing Pakistan’s leg­islative bodies closer to their final shape. However, as it is the running theme for this electoral cycle, a few loose ends re­main, to be tied at another time.

As expected, the ruling coalition strengthened its hand. Accord­ing to unofficial results, out of the 19 seats up for grabs today, the PML-N won six seats, the PPP won 11 and the MQM-P won one seat. While the PTI still maintains a sizeable presence with its 20 seats, PML-N has closed the gap with 19 total seats, and PPP has overtaken it with 26. The newfound strength will certainly bolster the coalition’s lawmaking ability. On the other hand, two relatively strong coalition partners in PPP and PML-N entail a delicate bal­ancing act from the respective party leaders to keep this govern­ment ticking – no single party can dictate terms in the legislative bodies. The prevalence of unopposed candidates in these polls in­dicates that so far, all stakeholders are on the same page.

But the final picture may yet change as the Election Commis­sion of Pakistan (ECP) delayed the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkh­wa to another date. The dispute over the swearing-in of the KP Assembly’s opposition members elected to reserved seats is still far from resolved and both Speaker Babar Saleem Swati and KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur continue to stand firm on the matter. Despite the weight of settled constitutional duty and the exigence of a proper counter-terrorism policy, the PTI govern­ment continues to drag this matter in an act of futile defiance. Sooner or later, it will have to administer oaths, it will have to conduct Senate polls, and it will have to work with PML-N in the center. Delaying governance over populist slogans is some­thing the PTI was guilty of during its last stint in charge as well – where the party’s leader chose to shut down the National As­sembly rather than engage with the opposition.

KP must realise the damage its tantrum is causing the nation and return to the table as responsible politicians.

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