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Election Commission Notifies Schedule for Senate Polls

by Newsweek Pakistan

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All assemblies directed to conduct elections on March 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued the schedule for the upcoming Senate polls, with the elections for the Upper House of Parliament set to take place on March 3 (Wednesday).

In an official statement, the ECP said that returning officers would issue a public notice for nomination papers on Feb. 11 (today). Prospective candidates would then have two days—Feb. 12-13—to file nomination papers with the returning officers, with the names of the nominated candidates to be published on Feb. 14.

The ECP has designated two days for scrutiny of the nomination papers—Feb. 15-16—which would be followed by two days for filing of appeals against any acceptance of rejection of nominations on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18. The Election Tribunal would dispose of all appeals within two days, Feb. 19-20, with the ECP set to publish the revised list of candidates on Feb. 21.

Any notified candidates that wish to withdraw their candidacy would be required to do so on Feb. 22.

This year’s Senate polls will take place on 48 seats—2 from Islamabad (1 general, 1 women’s seat); 11 each from Punjab and Sindh (seven general, two women, and two technocrats); and 12 each from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan (seven general, two women, two technocrats, and one for non-Muslims). The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government is hoping to conduct the polls via open ballot, and has issued a conditional ordinance in this regard that would only come into force if a presidential reference pending before the Supreme Court rules in the government’s favor.

Filed by President Arif Alvi, the reference pending before the Supreme Court has sought a legal opinion on whether Senate elections are held under the Constitution, or the Election Act 2017. In the former case, they cannot be conducted via open ballot without a constitutional amendment, while in the latter a simple amendment to the Election Act can achieve open balloting.

Earlier this week, a video was leaked of lawmakers from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa allegedly receiving bribes to vote against party policy in the 2018 Senate elections. Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed this proves the need for open ballot to stop horse-trading. The opposition, meanwhile, has claimed that it just shows the malfeasance of government lawmakers and they should “fix their own house.”

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