Apex court said secrecy of ballot papers not final; Ministers hail SC’s opinion on presidential reference

Apex court said secrecy of ballot papers not final; Ministers hail SC’s opinion on presidential reference Apex court said secrecy of ballot papers not final; Ministers hail SC’s opinion on presidential reference

Islamabad: Federal Ministers have hailed the opinion of Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on presidential reference regarding Senate polls saying that apex court has termed secrecy of ballot papers ‘not final’.

Speaking to media in Islamabad, Federal Minister for Information Shbili Faraz said that SC has stated in its opinion that secrecy of ballot is not absolute and directed Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take measures to curb corrupt practices.

“The decision of SC is historic. We want institutions to be free, independent and take decision without any pressure. Following SC’s opinion, senate polls will be held through Article 226 but we want every senate member to be elected on merit. We wanted the top court to interpret constitution,” he said.

Criticizing opposition parties, Shibli said that they sell their consciences and votes.

“We are fighting the war of ideology and free and fair elections. Money has always been a part of senate polls and we want to end this practice,” he said.

While exclusively speaking to GNN, Federal Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry also said that the secretary of ballot papers is not final as per SC’s opinion over presidential reference.

“SC has directed ECP to take steps for free and fair elections and it has not accepted the concept of secret balloting forever,” he said.

Fawad said that ECP is bound to take action wherever it thinks votes are being sold.

“ECP should take action today. It is strange that you allow horse trading in this election by saying that you will take steps in the next election,” he added.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader Senator Faisal Javed termed the opinion of Supreme Court as a victory of Pakistan.

“We had requested the court for the interpretation of election. The apex court has directed to hold senate polls as per Article 226; however, it has made clear that senate polls cannot be held through secret ballots forever,” he said.

The senator further stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan wants transparency in elections, whereas opposition wants discrepancies.

“Imran Khan took action against 20 MPAs involved in vote-selling. He is abiding by the constitution which states that elections should be free and fair,” he said.

Earlier today, The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) announced its opinion on the presidential reference regarding Senate polls, saying that elections for the upper house of parliament will be held through secret ballot, according to Article 226 of the Constitution.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi announced the verdict over the reference regarding holding of the Senate polls either through “secret ballot” or “open ballot”.

The majority verdict (4-1) of the top court stated that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is empowered to take all measures to hold free and fair elections and curb corrupt practices. Justice Afridi disagreed with the majority opinion.

The bench further observed that the secrecy of the ballot papers was "not final".

 “It is the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to protect the election from corruption. All institutions are bound to follow the ECP," it stated adding, “The parliament can pass constitutional amendments.”

The opinion further read that the electoral body ECP can use latest technology to ensure the holding of transparent elections under Article 218 of the Constitution.

Apex court had reserved the verdict on February 25, 2021.

More From Pakistan