Islamabad: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday has decided to conduct the Senate polls through secret ballot due to time constrain.
According to details, the electoral body has clarified that the polls will be held ‘as provided in the Constitution and Law as per past practice’.
As per an official notification, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja which was also attended by ECP members Justice (R) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, Justice (R) Mrs Irshad Qasir, Shah Muhammad Jatoi and Nisar Ahmed Durrani.
“The commission is taking all the possible steps and measures to fulfill its constitutional duty to check that corrupt practices in the Senate polls are guarded against. The Commission has so far not received detailed order/opinion,” the notification read.
In the light of Supreme Court’s (SC) opinion on presidential reference on senate polls, the ECP is of the view that input may be taken from different professional and technical organizations which may help to conclude upon it.
The commission has decided to constitute a committee which will prepare recommendations regarding use of technology in senate election within a period of four weeks. The Committee can take assistance from National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Ministry of Information Technology (IT).
Apex court’s opinion on presidential reference
Earlier yesterday, 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.
Government resorts to a contentious reference
On December 23, 2020, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government filed a reference in Supreme Court (SC), signed by President Arif Alvi, seeking guidance of the apex court over the matter of holding senate elections by open ballot.
The reference, prepared under Article 186 of the Constitution, was filed by Attorney General of Pakistan, Khalid Javed Khan.
It was stated in the reference that open balloting will ensure transparency in senate elections and government has sought the guidance of apex court in order to amend Section 122 (6) of the Election Act, 2017 without amending the constitution.
The Election Act is subservient to the Constitution and cannot override the constitutional provisions in Article 226 that specifically requires the Senate polls to be held by secret ballot.
The Article 226 of the Constitution, that governs the procedure of Senate elections envisaged in the Section 122 (6) of the Election Act, requires the two-third majority of the parliament to be amended.