The ruling party – PTI, despite a major setback on a hotly contested Islamabad seat, has emerged victorious with the largest majority (26 seats) in the upper house of the parliament following the 2021 Senate elections yesterday. Out of the total 48 seats to be contested, PTI won an additional 18 seats (total: 26), PPP won an additional 8 seats (total: 20), and PML-N bagged 5 seats (total: 18).
Albeit, a symbolic defeat in the Federal Capital [sitting Finance Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (164 votes) lost to PDM’s Yousuf Raza Gilani (169 votes)] will potentially weigh heavily on the ruling party and trigger further noise in the domestic political arena.
To recall, after weeks of controversy over the process of balloting, the Supreme Court on Monday (1st Mar’21) had ruled in favour of secret voting, under supervision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Following the senate polls, Prime Minister Khan has decided to seek a vote of confidence from the parliament, as votes were cast by members of the National Assembly for the Federal seat, which has cast a shadow of doubt over the dynamics of the ruling majority in the Lower House. However, it is important to mention that seven votes were rendered disqualified and Former PM Gilani won by a thin margin of 5 votes (169 against 164 in favour of Dr. Hafeez Shaikh). Moreover, Ms. Fouzia Arshad, PTI’s woman candidate for the Federal seat, also remained victorious, bagging 174 votes against her opponent’s 161.
To recall, Hafeez Shaikh took the charge of Federal Minister for Finance and Revenues on December 10, 2020 and was required to become an elected parliamentarian within six months of his appointment i.e. by June 2021. With the defeat of Hafeez Shaikh, the PTI government has the following options, in our view:
To appoint him as Special Adviser to the PM (SAPM) on Finance or
Contest from a different seat in the by-elections.
Hafeez Shaikh has been instrumental in engagements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and handling the overall portfolio of revenue. Following his loss in the election, the two potential candidates for this position could be either Hammad Azhar or Asad Umer, former being a strong contender as previously too we saw him being appointed the Federal Minister for Revenue by the PM in place of Hafeez Shaikh.
Courtesy – AHL Research