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Sanjrani elected Pakistan’s Senate Chairman

Kumari was warmly welcomed by the lawmakers as she entered the Senate for the first time

Gulf News

ISLAMABAD:

In a neck-to-neck battle of votes between Pakistan’s political parties, the Senate Monday elected opposition backed leader Sadiq Sanjrani as the new chairman.

Balochistan independent Senator Sadiq Sanjrani bagged 57 out of the total 103 votes while ruling PML-N party-backed candidate Raja Zafar ul Haq received 46 votes. Polling took place on Monday in a secret ballot.

To the surprise of ruling party, PPP and opposition parties’ nominated candidate Saleem Mandviwala was also elected as the deputy chairman of the Upper House of Parliament. He secured 54 votes.

Soon after their election, both the chairman and deputy chairman of Senate took oath. The decision was announced following the toughest political battle Pakistanis have witnessed.

Sanjrani became the first Senate chairman elected from Balochistan province. The Senate election was also hailed for electing Krishna Kumari Kohli, the first Dalit Hindu woman from underprivileged Thar region.

In a surprise move, just few hours before the election, the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nominated Raja Zafar ul Haq as its candidate, while Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) was the nominee for the deputy chairman.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other opposition groups nominated Sadiq Sanjrani from Balochistan for the chairmanship and Saleem Mandviwala for deputy chairmanship.

Following the nomination of Raja Zafar who is known as a moderate Islamist, PTI’s allied party Jamaat-e-Islami reportedly changed their mind and decided to back the ruling party’s candidate.

Earlier on Monday morning, 51 newly-elected senators took oath of office to join the upper house of the Parliament after which they elected new chairman and deputy chairman.

Outgoing chairman Senate Raza Rabbani and deputy chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri completed their term on March 11.

Following recent Senate polls, PML-N now has 33 seats in the Senate, PPP 20 seats, PTI 12 seats, National Party five seats, PkMAP five seats, MQM five seats, JUI-F four seats, Awami National Party one seat, Balochistan National Party-Mengal one seat, JI one seat, PML-F one seat and 16 independent candidates.

Pakistan’s Senate is comprised of 66 general seats, 17 women, 17 technocrat and four minorities seats. Of 104 seats, each province has 23 seats while Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has eight seats and Islamabad has four seats.

Sanjrani’s Profile:

Little known politician from Balochistan Sadiq Sanjrani has surprised Pakistanis by winning the top slot of Pakistan’s Senate.

He hails from the mineral-rich Chagai district of Balochistan and has a long background of political activism in the province. Born in 1978, he belongs to a political family and Sanjrani’s father Khan Mohammad Asif Sanjrani is considered one of the leading tribal elders of Chagai district and currently is a member of the Chagai District Council.

After basic schooling in his native town Nokundi, he received further education in Islamabad and later attended Balochistan University from where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Arts.

During his early years in politics, he was close to PML-N in 1998, but later joined Pakistan Peoples Party as he was appointed in-charge of the party’s complaint cell where he worked for five years.

He became popular in Balochistan for his sincere efforts to develop political awakening in Balochistan.

Throughout his career, Sadiq Sanjrani held several government positions including coordinator Complaint Cell of Prime Minister’s Secretariat in 1999, member of prime minister’s inspection commission and was appointed as chief coordinator of PM complaint cell and adviser in 2009.

Meanwhile, Pakistan swore in newly-elected members of the Senate on Monday, including for the first time a woman from the country’s marginalised Hindu minority, as allegations swirled that some senators had bribed their way to become lawmakers.

But the scandals cast no shadow on a smiling Krishna Kumari Kohli, who hails from the so-called untouchables — the lowest in the caste system still prevailing in Pakistan and India. Kumari was elected from the southern Sindh province in a vote that also saw a Taliban-linked cleric defeated in the northwest despite backing by moderate parties.

Kumari was warmly welcomed by the chamber’s predominantly Muslims lawmakers as she entered the Senate for the first time on Monday, making history.

Kumari, from a remote village in southern Sindh province, was among half of the lawmakers in the 104-member upper house of parliament elected to six-year terms in the March 3 vote by national and provincial assemblies, replacing those who had completed their terms. The other 52 lawmakers were elected in 2015.

Out of the 52 newly elected, 51 were sworn in on Monday while one lawmaker, Ishaq Dar, was out of the country. Dar was finance minister under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was disqualified by the Supreme Court last July for concealing financial assets.

- — With inputs from agencies

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