The federal government has decided to send presidential reference to the Supreme Court to seek opinion over the matter of holding Senate polls through show of hands method instead of secret ballot.
The development comes after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan advised the federal cabinet on Tuesday to consult the apex court before amending the Senate election laws.
The AGP while giving his opinion referred to a three-judge bench order wherein it was ruled that the method of Senate polls either by secret ballot or show of hands is the choice of legislature.
The AGP said the Senate election was scheduled to be held in March to fill the seats as mentioned in Article 59 of the Constitution.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier pledged to hold elections for the upper house of parliament through ‘show of hands’, and not by secret ballot, to ensure transparency and eliminate ‘horse trading’.
At present, section 122 (6) of the Election Act 2017 provides for election to the Senate by secret ballot.
Article 226 says that all elections under constitution other than those of the prime minister and chief ministers shall be held by secret ballot.
In view of Article 226 of the Constitution, it has been assumed that the election for Senate is required to be carried out through secret ballot, unless the Constitution is amended to hold it by another method.
AGP Khalid said that there is also another legal interpretation under which polls for Senate are not considered elections in the Constitution.
The AGP was of the view that if section 122 (6) of the election Act 2017 is amended through Ordinance, Senate polls can be held through open method rather secret ballot.
Sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune that during today’s cabinet meeting, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry objected filing of presidential reference.
He said that open method cannot be adopted without amending the Constitution. Likewise, opposition parties should also be consulted about changing the method of voting as one-sided legislation would not be appropriate on this matter.
Fawad also maintained that political matters should be dealt by politicians themselves rather than involving the judiciary.
He also opposed the suggestion of holding Senate elections early in February instead of March. PM Imran appreciated his suggestions, the sources said.
However, keeping in view of the sensitivity of the matter and given the fact that there is sufficient time before the next Senate election, the federal government may clarify on the issue by filing reference to the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution.
The AGP noted that though this course was not necessary, as a matter of utmost significance which would also influence the functioning of the Senate, it may be prudent to seek opinion from the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Addressing the media following federal cabinet meeting, Information Minister Shibli Faraz confirmed the development of approaching the apex court over the matter of introducing show of hands method in Senate polls.
“Our aim is to ensure transparent and credible elections of the upper house,” he said.
The minister said a bill has also been introduced in the Parliament regarding the Senate elections with the aim to check the horse trading.
Shibli said the amendment would be in the interest of all political parties of the country as it would ensure that only those candidates who are nominated by the parties become members of the upper of the parliament.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz addressing the media at the PID in Islamabad
Posted by Express Tribune on Tuesday, December 15, 2020