Federal cabinet to seek Supreme Court guidance on conducting elections via show of hands rather than secret balloting
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government on Tuesday decided to organize the Senate elections a month earlier than previously scheduled, and seek the Supreme Court’s guidance on conducting the polls via show of hands rather than secret balloting.
According to local media, the decision was taken during a meeting of the federal cabinet and was proposed by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry. Prime Minister Imran Khan, who chaired the meeting, stressed that changes to the election process were meant to make the process free-and-fair, adding that opposition parties should be encouraged to debate this in Parliament.
The Senate elections are to be held for 52 seats, with the incumbent lawmakers set to retire on March 11. The polls are traditionally held after the incumbents step down, but Chaudhry said the law allowed for polls to be conducted in February. Article 224 (3) of the Constitution reads: “An election to fill the seats in the Senate, which are to become vacant on the expiration of the term of the members of the Senate, shall be held not earlier than 30 days immediately preceding the day on which the vacancies are due to occur.”
Meanwhile, the federal cabinet also decided to seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on open voting for the Senate. According to the attorney general, a simple amendment to Section 122(6) of the Elections Act would permit an end to secret balloting, but he said the “sensitivity” of the situation would benefit from backing from the apex court.
In a press conference after the meeting, Information Minister Shibli Faraz confirmed the government would approach the Supreme Court to seek its guidance on holding Senate elections through show of hands. He claimed the decision was being taken to avoid any controversy of “horse trading” and to ensure transparent elections.
In a media interaction, Sindh spokesperson Murtaza Wahab claimed the federal government was acting out of turn by setting a date for the elections. “The Election Commission of Pakistan has the authority to announce a date for the polls,” he said, adding that conducting the polls via show-of-hands would be “unconstitutional.”