Presidential reference on ‘open ballot’ for Senate polls ‘malafide’: Rabbani

ISLAMABAD - Former Chairman Senate and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart Senator Raza Rabbani on Thursday said that the Presidential reference sent to the Supreme Court seeking an opinion on ‘open ballot’ for the Senate elections is “malafide” and an attempt of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to “mislead” the apex court. 

On the question of ‘open ballot’, the Federal Government had tabled the ‘Twenty Sixth Constitutional (Amendment) Bill’ in the National Assembly on the 29th of October, 2020, seeking amendments in Articles 59 and 226 of the Constitution, he said while talking to a group of journalists here. 

The bill was referred to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice and is still pending there, the Opposition legislator said. “With such a bill pending before the Parliament, for the President to file such a reference is impinging upon the sovereignty of Parliament to legislate.” 

He further said that the Federal Government having failed to materialise a two third majority to amend the Constitution in both the Houses of Parliament, is now trying to circumvent parliament and the Constitution through the presidential reference. 

The government has now taken a U-turn by tending that the elections to the Senate did not fall under the Constitution of 1973, hence a Constitutional amendment is not required, he added. 

The President, like in an earlier reference, filed against judges of the superior courts, is misleading to use the Supreme Court to further ruling party’s political agenda, he stated. In December last year, President Dr Arif Alvi, on the proposal of Prime Minister Imran Khan, had sought from the court whether the condition of secret ballot under Article 226 of the Constitution applies to the Senate elections or not. 

In the reference, he had sought whether Section 122(6) of the Elections Act, 2017 could be amended, without amending the Constitution, to hold the Senate polls on open ballot instead of secret ballot. 

The apex court is seized with the matter of maintainability of the Presidential reference seeking an opinion on ‘open ballot’ for the Senate polls.  

In the mid-December last year, Prime Miniater Imran Khan’s government had decided to hold Senate elections through show of hands to bring transparency, and discourage floor crossing in these polls. 

The elections for 52 seats of the Senate are to be held because half members of the 104-member house will retire on March 11.


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