Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani has backed holding Senate elections via open ballot in his response to a reference pertaining to the matter filed by the government in the Supreme Court.
In his five-page response to the SC filed through his lawyer Tariq Aziz, Sanjrani said allegations of floor-crossing (changing party loyalties) and rigging were leveled following the 2015 Senate elections after which there was a debate over the polling procedure.
Sanjrani said that it was suggested in the Senate’s House Committee that the name of the voter should be written on the back of the ballot paper and in case of a doubt, the party chief should have the power to see the details.
The Senate chairman said that transparent elections were in the larger interest of the nation. He maintained that the Constitution was silent regarding Senate elections, while interpretation of the Constitution was the job of the Supreme Court.
Sanjrani said that all stakeholders agree that the Senate elections should be transparent, and the person who goes against the party policy should face consequences.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Balochistan governments have also backed the federal government’s opinion of holding open-ballot polls, while Sindh has rejected the idea.
#BREAKING: PTI Govt on filed presidential reference in the #SupremeCourt seeking opinion on secret ballot in upcoming Senate polls.#Pakistan pic.twitter.com/iOHoWhStf3— Asad Ali Toor (@AsadAToor) December 23, 2020
A five-judge larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi, hearing the reference.
The apex court had issued notices to Advocate Generals, the Election Commission of Pakistan, Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly and the Speakers of provincial assemblies over the issue.
PTI to emerge as the winning party?
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, opines that “if the Senate election takes place in March 2021 as scheduled, the PTI is likely to emerge as the largest party in the house, displacing the PML-N from that position”.
It is, however, important to note that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has announced to resign from the assemblies. PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is one of the parties rallying against the government. Syed Murad Shah, Chief Minister Sindh, may advise the dissolution of the assembly shortly ahead of the Senate election in March 2021 which may keep an entire province out of the election.
Read more: Will MQM-P support PTI in Senate Elections?
Mehboob writes that “in case this happens, it will be the first time that a province skips the Senate election cycle”. “Since there is no clear and explicit provision in the Constitution and the Elections Act regarding such a situation, the matter may end up in a court of law for resolution and interpretation of the Constitution,” he continued. “This may become necessary also because fresh election of the chair and deputy chair of the Senate has to take place immediately after the March 2021 election and the absence of half the representation of a province may significantly impact the outcome of these elections,” he concluded.