Senate elections 2024: Senate elections underway; KP situation unclear

Polling has started for the election of members on 30 seats of the Senate for 6 years. There are 59 candidates running in the Upper House election. The National Assembly as well as the Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies have been turned into polling stations. In the National Assembly hall, voting commenced at the scheduled time of 9am, with the first ballot cast by PML-N MNA Saad Wasim. Returning Officer Saeed Gul has issued strict directives prohibiting the entry of visitors into the gallery, as the House had been turned into a polling station. He emphasised that only media personnel were allowed to observe the electoral process from the galleries. “If there is an irrelevant person, remove them from the gallery,” Gul instructed the assembly secretary. Polling in all the assemblies would continue till 4pm. Punjab AssemblyPolling commenced in the Punjab Assembly hall to vote for four candidates for women’s seats, and three each for technocrat and ulema seats. Moreover, two candidates are contesting the minority seat in the province. The candidates on seven general seats from the Punjab Assembly were earlier declared elected unopposed. Returning Officer Ijaz Anwar Chauhan is overseeing the polling process, with MPA Bilal Yameen from PP-6 casting the first vote. Sindh AssemblyMeanwhile, in Karachi, the Sindh Assembly witnessed a flurry of activities as 164 out of 168 members prepared to exercise their voting rights for the 12 Senate seats from the province being contested by 19 candidates. There are 11 candidates for general seats and three for women’s seats from Sindh. There are four candidates for technocrat seats and two for minority seats. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) holding the lion’s share of 117 members in the House, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Pakistan with 37. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has announced a boycott of the Senate elections. There are nine independent members of the Sindh Assembly, two from the Jamaat-e-Islami, while one member of the JI and three from the Grand Democratic Alliance have yet to take oath. The GDA members will not be able to cast their votes in the Senate elections, thus, the number of eligible voters in the Sindh Assembly is 164. KP AssemblyMeanwhile, the provincial election commissioner has postponed the Senate elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the application of the opposition members. Earlier in the day, the election commissioners had contacted the chief election commissioner on the request submitted by the opposition members in the KP Assembly seeking a postponement of the Senate elections. Led by Ahmad Karim Kundi, the opposition highlighted concerns over the non-swearing-in of 25 members, asserting that this could impact the fairness of the electoral process. On the other hand, the Senate election in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly could not begin at the scheduled time of 9am despite the arrangements being complete and the election staff present in the assembly. The Peshawar High Court had on March 27 directed the KP Assembly speaker to take oaths from the elected members of the reserved seats. Instead of taking the oath, the speaker filed a review petition in the court. The speaker adopted the stance that he did not have the authority to call a session, let alone administer the oath. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made the KP Senate elections subject to the oaths of the newly elected members in the reserved seats. Azam Swati has challenged the conditional decision of the ECP. Balochistan AssemblyAll 11 candidates from the Balochistan Assembly have been elected unopposed. The candidates vying for a spot in the Senate from Balochistan in the upcoming elections to the Upper House of parliament were elected unopposed on all the seats on March 29. The election commission announced that the candidates from Balochistan were elected unopposed on all seats of the Senate. The seats up for grabs from Balochistan were seven general seats, two women’s seats, and two technocrat seats. ECP’s guidelines for MNAsThe election commission has issued guidelines for members participating in the voting process in the National Assembly. From the method of marking preferences on the ballot papers to restrictions on mobile phones inside polling booths, these instructions aimed to ensure transparency and adherence to democratic norms. As per the instructions, a voter would have to enter the preferences on ballot papers through a ballpoint, ‘1’ should be written in front of the name of the first preferred candidate, and ‘2’ next to the name of the second preference. The preference number should be entered in English or Urdu numerals only, and writing in both Urdu and English together will result in rejection of the vote, the ECP guidelines state. They further say that a vote will be rejected if a number is not entered in the preference box. If the digit ‘1’ is entered in front of more than one name, the vote will not be counted. The MNAs have been prohibited from taking mobile phones inside the polling booth and have been instructed to submit their phones before entering the booth.