“Secrecy is
important” in
Senate elections

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ISLAMABAD: In a major embarrassment to the Imran Khan-led government, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked on Thursday that the Senate is a “mature and serious forum” that “needs secrecy to perform its functions,” reported Geo News.

The chief justice was hearing a case related to the presidential reference seeking Senate elections via open ballot, a process which would end secret voting.

The Chief Justice added that there is a need to “remain cognisant of corrupt practices entering the Upper House.”

CJP Gulzar Ahmed

Arguing during the hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan said that “whoever comes on a provincial assembly party ticket should vote according to party policy as the political party is accountable to the people,” reported Geo News.

Responding to the attorney general, the Chief Justice said that “democracy is not visible even in political parties.”

“Parties should also adopt a democratic attitude within themselves — the head of a political party should not be a dictator,” he maintained.

“The court has to give its opinion on whether the Constitution needs to be amended or not to change the secret balloting method,” the CJP had said.

Two days earlier, the CJP had said that that if the “government does not withdraw the presidential reference regarding open ballot voting in the Senate elections, the Supreme Court will give its opinion,” reported Geo News.

The move for the open ballot in Senate elections was introduced by Khan through a constitutional amendment. He also decided to hold early Senate elections as currently, the Senate is decisively controlled by the constituent parties of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

The Imran-government pushed for early Senate elections to change the power structure in the Senate.The Opposition had resisted the move for open ballot. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) too had clarified that the elections cannot be held in February as half of its members will be retiring on March 11.

Despite the controversy, the ECP on Thursday said that it will announce the schedule for the Senate elections on February 11.

According to the Constitution, elections cannot be held 30 days in advance on seats that are vacant after the expiry of the term of the members of the Senate, the ECP said, quoting Article 224(3) of the Constitution. This means elections on vacant Senate seats cannot be held before February 10, 2021.In a 104-member Senate, elections will be held for 52 seats.