Parties call for probe into Senate vote ‘purchase’

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Crying foul a day after the Senate elections, several political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, called for an investigation into the allegation of horse-trading.

PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif blamed the political parties that secured more seats than their proportional representation in the provincial assemblies for “rigging the Senate elections” and demanded an investigation to ascertain if the change of loyalty was based on change of mind, financial gain or some other factors.

Mr Sharif was talking to the media after attending the proceedings in three references.

Despite the fact that the PML-N emerged as the largest party in the election for the upper house of parliament, the former prime minister said the game of trading of votes must come to an end.

The same demand was made by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan on the second day of his two-day visit to Karachi for a party membership drive.

Mr Khan said according to his information votes were purchased for up to Rs40 million in the Senate elections. “Our own people also sold themselves,” he admitted but did not mention names of those allegedly involved in the practice in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies.

He said his party had been asking the Election Commission of Pakistan to replace the old secret ballot system with open voting for Senate elections to help check corrupt practices, but the ECP did not accept the demand. It was for this reason that the lawmakers had indulged themselves in trading of votes, he alleged, while asking the ECP, National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency what actions they had taken to check the horse-trading.

The PTI chief demanded that Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar take notice of the horse-trading, explaining that those who had bribed the lawmakers were known but the legislators who had allegedly taken bribe to switch loyalty were not traceable.

He vowed to probe the allegation of horse-trading within his party. He was of the opinion that in Western countries one could not think of people becoming a saleable commodity.

Also the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, which suffered a major setback in the election, announced that it would challenge the Senate elections in the ECP and courts accusing Pakistan Peoples Party and Pak Sarzameen Party of “harassing” MQM lawmakers and “selling” the mandate of Karachi.

While addressing a press conference, Dr Farooq Sattar, heading the PIB group of the MQM-P, said the Senate elections lost credibility as they were not held impartially and transparently.

He alleged that the PPP harassed more than 15 legislators of his party in order to pressure them to change their loyalty. He accused PSP chief Mustafa Kamal and his deputy of “selling” the mandate of Karachi.

“After the [Senate] elections we have done our investigation,” he said. “Our investigation shows that our more than 15 MPAs were harassed to change their loyalty. We are also doing our homework to take action against those MPAs who cast their votes against the policy and we have already sent notices to six of them.

“But at the same time we are going to challenge these Senate elections in ECP and in courts. The decision has not been made so far whether we will challenge them in Sindh High Court or Supreme Court.”

Due to PSP’s policy, he said, the PML-Functional managed to win a Senate seat from Sindh “proving” that the PSP had no interest in “Mohajirs” and they preferred to “surrender” the mandate of the community for political gains.

“Anticipating all such violations, I had advised my friends in Bahadurabad to boycott the Senate elections,” he said.

“There was also a suggestion that we should have agreed to some point and make joint efforts. For that there was a suggestion to set up a coordination committee with 10 members from each side [PIB and Bahadurabad] in the new body. It was decided that we would meet again but it’s so unfortunate that there is no response from the other side.”

The election results for 12 Senate seats from Sindh have surprised many. Farogh Naseem, who supports the Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui-led faction of MQM, is the only candidate of the party to have emerged victorious for the upper house of the parliament.

Just a day ago, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq, too, had demanded investigation into the allegation of horse-trading. While addressing the media at Karachi Press Club, the JI chief had appealed to the chief justice to take notice of the Senate election where parliamentarians allegedly cast votes for financial gains and other benefits.