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Who is responsible to ensure transparency in Senate Elections?

The Supreme Court while hearing the presidential reference on the Senate election, summoned the Chief Election Commissioner and the members of the election commission on Tuesday (today). “Why the general election rules not being applied over the Senate election,” Justice Yahya Afridi questioned.

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The Supreme Court while hearing the presidential reference on the Senate election, summoned the Chief Election Commissioner and the members of the election commission on Tuesday (today).  A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed hearing the presidential reference seeking the court’s advice over open ballot in the upcoming Senate election.

The court also asked the election commission to present a scheme to get rid of corrupt practices in the election of the upper house.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked that only announcement of the schedule is not enough, the election commission would have to devise a polling scheme.

The court will ask the CEC about the steps taken for a fair election, the chief justice said. “It is responsibility of the election commission to ensure transparency in election,” Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan said. “Why the general election rules not being applied over the Senate election,” Justice Yahya Afridi questioned. “The election commission also monitors votes in general elections,” Justice Afridi observed.

“The secret vote condition is applicable till casting the vote,” Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan said. “This vote has been given indemnity under Article 226,” the ECP lawyer argued. “The election commission could itself inquire into the matter,” Justice Ahsan said.

“Now the videos of the election corruption coming to surface,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial said. “The mechanism to curb corruption exists in the election law,” the election commission’s lawyer argued. “Still corrupt practices continuing in the election,” the chief justice remarked.

“How many senators have been disqualified over vote trading in last 40 years,” Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan asked. The court summoned the Chief Election Commissioner and members of the election commission tomorrow to present a scheme to curb corruption in election.

According to the ECP, the polling to elect legislators for the upper house of the parliament will be held on March 3.

Read more: Senate vote is being sold for Rs500 million to Rs700 million in Balochistan, reveals PM Khan

As per the schedule released by the ECP, public notice inviting nomination papers will be issued by the Returning Officers on February 11. The ECP will accept submission of the nomination papers on February 12 and 13.

PTI to emerge as the winning party?

A total of 52 senators in the house of 104 are set to retire on March 11 on completion of their six-year term. They will also include four of the eight senators from the erstwhile Federally Adminis­tered Tribal Areas (Fata). As the seats representing Fata will not be filled due to the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018, the Senate strength will shrink to 100.

Therefore, polling will be held to elect 48 senators — 12 each from KP and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad. Polling will be held to elect seven members on general seats, two women and two technocrats in the four provinces. Besides, the election on one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.

Over 65 per cent of the senators who are set to retire on March 11 after completing their six-year constitutio­nal term belong to the opposition parties.

While the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf senators may double in numbers after the electoral exercise to reach 28 from existing 14, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is likely to be the biggest loser in terms of representation in the Senate as 17 of its 29 senators will retire next month and the party would be able to retain just five, taking the total strength to 17.

The Pakistan Peoples Party’s strength in the house will slightly come down from 21 to 19. Among the allies of the ruling party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement will be the only loser, with its party’s strength slipping down from five to three, while another ally, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), will emerge stronger, with the number of its senators growing from 10 to 13.

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.

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.

Read more: Senate Elections: Why government promulgated a Presidential Ordinance?

“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.

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