Federal cabinet rejects proposal to mortgage Islamabad park, approves formation of one-man commission to probe Broadsheet scandal
Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to table a bill in Parliament to amend the Constitution so that Senate elections could be conducted via open-ballot, rather than the existing secret vote.
“The government wants [Senate] polls to be held in a transparent manner and without horse-trading. This is why we want them to be held through open ballot so everyone knows who is voting for whom,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz said in a post-meeting press conference. “It is a fact of history that in Senate elections, money is doled out and people and votes are bought. … What is the point of an Upper House in which people come through purchasing votes?” he said, pointing out that the opposition had in the past also demanded open ballots.
He said that the government had decided to present a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament to allow for the Senate polls to be held via open ballot, adding that legislation over this had already been introduced in the National Assembly. The PTI-led government envisages a system in the Senate where “nobody would ever raise the issue of rigging,” he added.
The government has already sought the advice of the Supreme Court on conducting Senate polls via open ballot. Opposition parties have already criticized the move, saying the issue should be dealt with in Parliament. The PTI, according to sources, believes it can utilize the Constitution Amendment Bill and the Electoral Reforms Bill to legislate open ballot for Senate polls.
The cabinet rejected a proposal to issue Sukkuk bonds by mortgaging Islamabad’s Fatima Jinnah Park after the prime minister questioned why a park was being considered rather than a state-owned building. “The prime minister directed [officials] that some building should be mortgaged instead of F-9 Park for Sukkuk bonds,” Faraz said in his media interaction, adding that the cabinet had decided to issue Sukkuk bonds against the Islamabad Club.
The federal cabinet also approved the formation of a one-man commission, comprising and led by former Supreme Court judge Azmat Sheikh, to probe the Broadsheet LLC scandal and submit its findings within 45 days. According to the information minister, the prime minister also directed authorities concerned to submit complete details of the expenditures incurred thus far on litigation in foreign courts after being informed that over $100 million had been paid in lawyers’ fees already.
During his press conference, Faraz reiterated his claims that the scandal had “proved that corrupt people were spared and some of them even became prime ministers and presidents.” He said the time had come for the public to be informed about who had done what in causing the “destruction of the national economy” and leaving the country saddled with so many debts.