Opposition has alleged the process of open balloting violates law and requires a constitutional amendment
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government on Wednesday filed a reference in the Supreme Court seeking legal guidance on conducting Senate elections through an open ballot.
Submitted by Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan after securing approval of President Arif Alvi under Article 186 of the Constitution, the reference seeks the apex court’s views on whether secret ballots, as referred to in Article 226 of the Constitution, apply only to elections held “under” the Constitution—presidential polls, speaker, deputy speaker elections—and “not to other elections such as the election for the members of Senate” held under the Elections Act 2017 enacted pursuant to Article 222, read with Entry 41 (1) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution “which may be held by way of secret or open ballot” as provided for in the Act.
The government plea contends that the nature and conduct of the Senate polls has not been clearly designated in the Constitution and is open to interpretation. The reference also reiterates the government’s stance that open ballot voting would bring about transparency in the Senate polls, thereby ending voting through corruption.
The government, earlier this month, announced it would hold the Senate elections in February—a month earlier than traditionally—and would conduct them via open ballot to curb horse-trading. The opposition has criticized the decision, questioning how the government can announce any polls schedule, which is solely the authority of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
In a statement issued earlier this week, the ECP said it was aware of its responsibility to set poll schedules. It said that it would announce the Senate polls schedule, as per law.