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ECP Decides to Conduct Senate Elections Per Past Practice

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Committee cites ‘time constraints’ for not implementing Supreme Court guidance in tomorrow’s polls

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued a statement verifying that the Senate elections scheduled for March 3 (tomorrow) will be conducted “per past practice” as there is insufficient time to implement any of the guidance provided by the Supreme Court.

“The commission deliberated on the order/opinion of the Supreme Court passed today [Monday] in presidential reference No. 1/2020 and decided to implement it in letter and spirit,” it said following a meeting of ECP under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. Noting that the ECP was already taking all possible steps to curtail corruption in the Senate polls, it stressed that a detailed opinion was still awaited.

“The honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan has held that the election to the Senate of Pakistan is under the Constitution and the law, which is through secret ballot,” it said, adding that the short order had stressed that the ECP was “required” to utilize technology to develop a mechanism “for fulfilment of its constitutional duty in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution.” Emphasizing that this required the input of various professional/technical organizations, it constituted a committee comprising the special secretary, the director general (I.T.) and the joint provincial election commissioner of Punjab to seek further guidance.

“The committee shall prepare recommendations regarding use of technology in Senate election within a period of four weeks. The committee may also take assistance from NADRA, FIA, Ministry of I.T., and any person from these organizations may step into it or co-opt it for giving better recommendations,” read the statement.

“The commission also decided that due to time constrain, ensuing Senate elections scheduled for March 3, 2021 will be conducted as provided in the Constitution and Law as per past practice,” it added.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued an order/guidance noting that the upcoming Senate elections would be conducted in accordance with the law and Constitution via secret ballot. It said that the ECP was responsible for protecting the polls from corruption, adding that the secrecy of ballots was “not final.” Speaking to media, members of the federal cabinet claimed the ECP would now be required to print ballots that would encourage transparency by printing barcodes or similar identifiers. They claimed that if the ECP did not do this, it would be committing “contempt of court.”

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