Islamabad: Political activity is at its peak in Islamabad as the capital city gears up for the Senate elections on March 3.
Pakistan’s Senate or the upper house of parliament consists of 104 lawmakers who are elected by members of the country’s provincial and national assemblies. Each senator serves a term of six years but 50 per cent of the total number of senators retire after every three years.
The elections are due as 52 senators are set to retire on March 11 after completing their six-year tenure. However, the 2021 elections will see 48 new senators join the upper house, including 12 each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad. The number was reduced to 48 members this year after the merger of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with the KP province.
As many as 78 candidates from different political parties are contesting the 2021 Senate elections. The candidates include 14 from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), 13 from Pakistan Peopless Party (PPP), 2 from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), 2 from MQM-P, 11 from BAP, 1 from TLP and three as independent candidates.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is set to emerge as the largest party in the elections of the Senate which is currently dominated by the opposition, blocking government-backed legislations.
Perks of a senator
The monthly salary of a senator in Pakistan is about Rs76,802 (US$487) including all allowances, according to a 2015 Senate handbook. However, most of their expenses such as medical, travel and other bills are covered by the state. A senator is also entitled to travel allowance including vouchers of Rs300,000 (US$1900) per year or Rs90,000 cash in lieu of travel voucher per year. Senators are also allotted 20 business class open return air tickets per year.
Horse-trading allegations and secret balloting
Prime Minister Imran Khan recently proposed to hold Senate elections through an open ballot system to address the challenges of rigging, buying and selling of votes and horse-trading allegations in the Senate election that has long destroyed the sanctity of the upper house of parliament. However, a day earlier, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of elections through the secret ballot under the constitution after the country’s president sought the opinion of the court. The court urged that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was responsible to ensure transparency and curbing all corrupt practices. The court also suggested the use of the latest technology to ensure transparency. The election commission on Tuesday said that the Senate polls would be conducted as provided in the Constitution and law as per past practice.