PEC to announce Senate election schedule on Feb 11

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ISLAMABAD: Despite the controversy over the senate polls in Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Thursday it will announce the schedule for the upcoming Senate elections on February 11.

According to Geo News, the ECP has started distributing nomination papers to prospective candidates.

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the Senate elections started on December 15, when the Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government decided to hold the elections in February, instead of March.

Following this, on December 21, the Election Commission clarified that Senate elections 2021 cannot be held in February as half of its members will be retiring on March 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. 

“Conducting the Senate elections is the constitutional and legal responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan under articles 218 (3) and 224 (3) of the Constitution and Section 107 of the Election Act, 2017,” ECP said.

As the early Senate polls are expected to result in the loss of seats for the Opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which currently controls the Upper House, the decision was taken during a meeting of the federal Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, reported Dawn.

In a 104-member Senate, elections will be held for 52 seats as many members of the Upper House will be retiring on March 11. The federal government invoked the idea of early elections in order to change the power structure in the Senate.

Currently, the Senate is decisively controlled by the constituent parties of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

A source disclosed to Dawn that the proposal for the early Senate election was put forth by the Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary. The government also invoked advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on open voting for the polls.

The Election [Amendment] Ordinance 2021 has been issued on Saturday after President Dr Arif Alvi signed Presidential Ordinance, opening the path for open ballot Senate election.

However, the Ordinance has been linked with the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and if the Supreme Court has declared the Ordinance in accordance to the Senate Election Act, the election will be held through open ballot.

Federal Information minister, in a tweet on Saturday, revealed that President Dr Arif Alvi has signed the Election Amendment Ordinance 2021, adding that however, the implementation of the Ordinance has been linked up with the approval of the apex Court.

The President has signed the Ordinance under the Article 89 of the Constitution. According to the Ordinance, amendments have been proposed in sections 81, 122 and 185 of the Election Act 2017 and the Supreme Court will give its recommendation under the section 226 of the law.

With implementation of the Ordinance, the Election Commission of Pakistan will be bound to show their members vote to the Party head, as the amended ordinance allows party head to make request for its members list of vote.

The Ordinance will be for the entire country. It is to mention here that the government earlier took approval of the Ordinance from the Federal Cabinet.