Pak Senate election to be held through secret ballot
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Supreme Court (SC) has said Senate polls will take place through secret ballot under article 226 of the constitution. In its brief opinion on presidential reference seeking holding of senate polls through open balloting, the SC remarked the senate polls will be held under article 226 of the constitution through secret ballot.
The 8-page decision has been authored by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmad which has been issued with the majority opinion of 4-1. Justice Yahya Afridi while differing with the decision has declared the reference illegal and sent it back to the president.
A five members bench of SC presided over by the CJP Gulzar Ahmad and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi took up the reference for hearing.
The SC has said in its opinion that Senate polls will be held under article 226 of the constitution through secret ballot. This is responsibility of Election Commission (EC) to hold fair and transparent election and this is too responsibility of EC to take steps to curb corrupt practices in the polls. SC has maintained in workers party case that holding fair election is responsibility of the EC. EC should discharge this constitutional obligation.
The court further remarked the constitution too has empowered parliament to prevent corrupt practices and other illegal activities. Parliament cannot enact such legislation which curtails the powers of the EC. It is binding on the federation and provinces constitutionally to assist EC. As far as secret balloting is concerned SC has given reply already in its decision on this count. The SC maintained in its 1967 decision that secrecy of vote is not lasting. EC should utilize all available sources and technology and hold Senate election with uprightness and transparency. EC should secure the polls from corrupt practices.
Justice Yahya Afridi has declared the presidential reference non maintainable. In his brief dissenting note Justice Yahya Afridi has remarked the question raised by the president in the reference is not legal. The illegal presidential reference is returned to the president without giving any reply. The reasons behind the dissenting note will be issued later.
Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan said it was now up to the election commission to select what method to use in the upcoming elections to check corruption.
“The ECP is bound to investigate and trace the ballot to see whether any corrupt practice occurred,” he said in a statement after the verdict, adding that the election commission was “constitutionally bound” to follow the opinion of the Supreme Court and implement it without any amendments to existing rules or legislation.
Senate elections are scheduled to be held on March 3 for 48 seats. Each member of the Upper House of the Parliament is elected for a six-year term. Half of the senate members retire after every three years and new one are elected. The house has equal representation from all four provinces.
Leaders of an 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have opposed the government’s move to try to hold senate elections through an open ballot, and one of the major parties in the alliance, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Election Amendment Ordinance 2021.
Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid on Monday termed the opinion of Supreme Court (SC) on presidential reference regarding Senate elections as constitutional and according to the law.
Talking to a private TV channel, the minister expressed hope that the Senate polls will become interesting now.
Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh will win from Islamabad whereas other provinces are considering the option of settlement, he claimed.
The reaction came after SC, in its opinion on the presidential reference on open Senate vote, said that the elections in the upper house of the Parliament will be held through secret ballot under the article 226 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The apex court has directed Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to use latest technologies to stop corrupt practices and all institutions should assist ECP in holding the elections.
It is to be mentioned here that a total of 170 candidates had filed their nomination papers in the ECP for the polls on 48 seats in the upper house of the Parliament. 29 candidates from Punjab, 39 from Sindh, 51 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 41 from Balochistan and 10 from the federal capital Islamabad had submitted their details.
Polling for Senate elections will be held on March 3 at the Parliament house in Islamabad and the four provincial assemblies.