PESHAWAR: Senator Mirza Mohammad Afridi is the first person from the erstwhile Fata to hold one of the highest elected offices by winning election as the Deputy Chairman Senate.
The 42-year old Afridi, belonging to Bara in the Khyber tribal district, polled an impressive 54 votes to defeat JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, the joint candidate of the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), who secured 44 votes.
His victory by a margin of 10 votes was surprising as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition government’s candidate for the Senate chairman, Mohammad Sadiq Sanjarani, could obtain 48 votes only. Sanjarani outvoted the PDM candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani, who is affiliated with the PPP and got 42 votes.
In another surprise, eight votes in the election for the Senate chairman were rejected including seven cast for Gilani. The eighth rejected vote was stamped by the unidentified voter for both the candidates and was thus clearly meant to be declared invalid. All 98 votes polled in the deputy chairman’s election were found valid, enabling Afridi to bag 54 votes and win with a clear margin.
The opposition parties had a strength of 52 Senators, including Jamaat-e-Islami’s Mushtaq Ahmad Khan who abstained from the election. The PTI and its allies had 47 members in the Senate, but both their candidates managed to win the election for the chairman and deputy chairman.
Afridi is a first-timer in the Senate. He was elected Senator in the March 2018 election for the Upper House of Parliament and his term will end in March 2024. He was elected as an independent candidate, but joined the PTI when it formed the government after the July 2018 general election. However, the PML-N leaders maintained that he had first joined their party and had never announced he was quitting it. A Election Commission of Pakistan official pleading anonymity was quoted as saying that he was listed in the commission as a PML-N senator.
Though people from ex-Fata have served in the past on high positions, including two as governors (retired Lt Gen Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai and Shaukatullah Khan), and some as federal ministers and senior bureaucrats, Afridi is the first to hold a high elected office as the deputy chairman of the Senate.
Afridi is a business tycoon. His family owns textile and steels mills and has business interests in Pakistan as well as Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea.