The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected the presidential reference on the procedure of Senate election as unconstitutional and said that it could be changed by amending the constitution.
The commission filed its 12-page reply in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the presidential reference that sought to hold Senate elections by show of hands instead of secret ballot. A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed, is hearing the presidential reference.
The commission said in its written reply that the Article 226 of the Constitution laid down the procedure and explains that except prime minister and chief ministers, all other election will be conducted through secret ballot.
Advocate Shahjeel Shehryar Swati submitted on behalf of the commission that Articles 59, 219, 224 (3) and (5) of the Constitution provided for elections to the Senate and, ‘Election of the Senate is election under the Constitution’ for the purposes of Article 226 of the Constitution.
Advocate Shahjeel submitted that a constitutional amendment will be required to end the procedure of secret balloting.
On December 23, the federal government had sought consultation form the Supreme Court on the procedure of Senate elections.
The president said reference will promote transparency and accountability in the electoral process, acknowledge respect for the choice and desires of the voters, strengthen political parties and their discipline, which is essential for parliamentary democracy, and discourage floor-crossing and horse trading in elections which grossly insulted the people’s mandate.
The apex court had directed the provincial advocates general besides the Election Commission, Senate Chairman and National Assembly Speaker to submit written synopsis.
The larger bench will resume hearing of the reference on January 18.
Meanwhile, Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Law Murtaza Wahab confirmed that the provincial government was against the open ballot.
He said the Sindh government’s response in the reference would be filed next week.
Wahab said the provincial government was of the view that open ballot was a”against the Constitution and freedom of expression”.
Jamaat-i-Islam, in the meanwhile, has also rejected the presidential reference. It said let the parliament decide the mode of Senate election.
For a change in procedure, not only law, but constitution will have to be amended. The Jamaat has requested the apex court to send back the reference.
It said those who buy or sell the vote, they are not truthful and honest (Sadiq and Amin). Parliamentarians should be free to vote the candidate of their choice, the Jamaat said.