As the elections for the Senate of Pakistan are approaching, contesting political parties have completed the nominations of their candidates. In addition to the ruling party, the PML-N and PPP are major contestants. March 3 is hardly two weeks away and the names in the list have already generated much discussion among the observers of the race. It appears that the PTI is in dire need of getting some of its heavyweights in the Senate.
As the financial management of the present government has seen many challenges in the first 30 months of its tenure, having a full-time minister for finance is an urgent need. Though Hafeez Sheikh has had the distinction of working with a couple of governments in the past, this time around the PTI has been trying to use his expertise with varying results. He is not an old PTI guard but a technocrat who may be useful as a PTI member of the Senate. A major challenge he will face is to run the National Finance Commission that has overall remained paralyzed ever since the PTI government came to power in 2018. Surprisingly, technocrats have been favorites of the prime minister as he has been tackling numerous tasks that perhaps his regular PTI leaders have been unable to respond to.
The nominations by the PML-N and PPP show a more political approach rather than a technocratic one. Most of their nominees are long-standing members of their parties and have stood fast in their struggle for democracy and constitutional supremacy in the country. With the PTI likely to emerge as the largest party in the Senate, it is imperative that the opposition has senators who can present impressive democratic credentials.
The upper house is a relatively more prestigious and revered chamber of legislation, calling for candidates who are not only articulate but also able to command the respect of the house and the public alike. That is one reason why the decision-makers should have avoided nominating controversial candidates. Though it seems a bit too much to expect politics based on principles, at least all political parties should strive to present a face of competency and democratic values. After the deadline for the withdrawal of nomination papers expires on Feb 25, we will be in a better position to comment on the choices the political leaderships have made. For the time being, it appears to be a mixed bag of economic and political considerations.