ISLAMABAD and LAHORE - With election of Senate chairman and deputy chairman in jeopardy till the completion of 104-member Upper House of the Parliament, main stakeholders in Senate in the run for the priced slots are engaged in hectic consultations within their respective circles to attain the golden figure of 53 (simple majority) required for the purpose.

The complex situation, wherein both PPP and PML-N have almost equal strength in terms of Senate votes, has forced the ruling party to eat a humble pie and even reach out to arch rival PML-Q to secure its support for the victory of its nominees for the offices of the chairman and deputy chairman of Senate. The ruling party in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday also decided to contact its bitter foe, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of Imran Khan, for securing victory in the contest.

In the meeting at Prime Minister's House, PM Nawaz discussed with select party colleagues the post-Senate election scenario; ways and means to attain simple majority in the Upper House for getting their men installed at the slots of chairman and his deputy; and suspension of the elections on four Fata seats after introduction of controversial presidential ordinance and its legal, constitutional and political implications.

Sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting held under the chair of PM informed The Nation that the controversy generated by presidential ordinance to change the voting mode of Senate elections for Fata members came under detailed deliberations. Legal wizards of the party had given briefing on the matter to PM with a number of options to get out of the awkward situation government had landed after the matter was challenged in the superior courts by Fata MPs.

Sources said that one of the main options, the government could exercise to resolve the standoff, is to withdraw the ordinance and take it to the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms to incorporate it in the main reforms package aimed at removing anomalies and lacunae in the prevalent electoral system.

Some of the participants of the meeting were of the view that let the superior courts decide on the matter while others opposed it on the ground that the matter must be resolved immediately as without the election of Fata senators the house would not be complete to exercise its right of electing chairman and deputy chairman of Senate.

When contacted the parliamentarians with legal and constitutional background appeared to be divided on the issue as some of them were of the view that the election of chairman and deputy chairman could be held even without the four Fata Senators while others said that till the completion of the house it was not possible legally.

Sources said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was giving serious consideration to the point to withdraw presidential ordinance to pave the way for Fata senators' election. They said the Premier also tasked his trusted cabinet and party colleagues to contact other parliamentary parties in Senate for evolving consensus on the two top slots of the house.

Following the meeting Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar contacted the nationalist parties' leaders including Mir Hazil Bazenjo, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Asfandyar Wali and Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah. Similarly, Khwaja Saad Rafique contacted MQM leaders and Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and besides greeting him on his elections as Senator, sought his support for the two top slots.

It was decided in the meeting that PML-N would also approach Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to win over its support for the party's candidate for top position. In this connection Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor and PML-N veteran Sardar Mehtab Abbasi was assigned the task, who, earlier had not disappointed the party for securing two senators from KP Assembly, obviously with the covert support of ruling alliance.

In a media chat Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that they have not decided the candidates for Senate chairman and deputy chairman and were rightly now engaged in consultation with coalition partners and other smaller parliamentary parties in Upper House, and decision would be made in consensus with these parties and groups.

On the other hand, Pakistan People's Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari was also engaged in hectic consultation with like-minded parties in the Upper House to continue holding the top position in Senate after the retirement of incumbent Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari.

Political analysts said that in the given situation things seemed tilting in favour of PPP which seemed a bit comfortable with MQM, ANP, BNP-A, BNP-Mengal and a few independents showing allegiance to it.

PPP spokesman Farhat Ullah Babar while talking to a private television channel, rejected the names being surfaced in media as PPP candidates for the top positions, adding that Asif Zardari has called the meeting of the like-minded parties in the Upper House on Monday and the names for the top positions would be decided in consultation with these parties.

Sources said that PPP could offer the slot of deputy chairman to smaller parties like JUI-F or ANP in lieu of their support for the PPP candidate for Senate chairman. But PML-N with 26 party senators is lagging behind with just a single senator to PPP which has 27 senators in the house of 104 and so it has the potential to turn the table on its opponents for the two top Senate positions.

Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Trusted aides of the prime minister, Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Federal Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, contacted PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Syed on Saturday with the request to support their candidates in the Senate chairman and deputy chairman election. Mushahid Hussain told them he would come up with a response after consulting the party high command.

The PML-Q came into being after the Sharif family was exiled to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) by General Pervez Musharraf in December 2000. The Sharifs started abhorring the Chaudharys after that and kept them at a distance even after their return to the country in 2007.

The PML-N’s contact with the PML-Q at this stage shows how desperate the ruling party is to get its men elected as the Senate chairman and deputy chairman.

PML-Q spokesman Senator Kamil Ali Agha, when contacted, confirmed the two trusted aides of the prime minister contacted PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid who told them that he could reply back after consulting the party chief.

When asked if the contact could move beyond the Senate chairman and deputy chairman election, he said, “I cannot say anything with certainty at this stage except that the PML-N top leaders contacted Mushahid to seek our support for their nominees for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman.”

The development has surprised many in the ruling party and they made several efforts to know details of the contact, but could not get anything.

Political pundits term the contact between the trusted aides of the top leadership of the ruling party and PML-Q the most significant development, but they were not prepared to make a major prediction.

However, some of the Muslim Leaguers who have been trying for unification of various factions of the Muslim Leagues sine long think the development could gather different factions of PML under a single umbrella and no matter if they make a unified Muslim League or an alliance is forged by them.