ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate has demanded that the upper house of parliament be given representation in the committee formed to investigate allegations of rigging in the July 25 general elections.

Senator Abdul Qayyum, a retired general, while addressing the house on Wednesday, said that complaints of rigging in the elections were a major cause for concern and had the entire nation worried. He argued that the matter was too serious a business to be left only to the lower house to consider.

The upper house of parliament must be represented in the proposed panel as no law pertaining to the improvement of the efficiency of the election commission or empowering the interim government could be passed without the concurrence of the House of the Federation — the Senate of Pakistan, he remarked.

According to him, democratic edifice in any country squarely lies on the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections. “Any doubt on their credibility can shake the very foundations of the structure, which can cause it to fall like a house of a cards.”

The chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior, who presented to the upper house his committee’s third report on alleged rigging in the elections, also agreed that the Senate be represented in any such investigative matter.

Presiding Officer Sitara Ayaz, upon hearing this, announced that the Senate chairman had already sent a letter to the National Assembly speaker about the matter and that they were hoping to hear back by Monday.

Rejecting the decision of forming a committee, Senator Javed Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said that the opposition had demanded a parliamentary commission — not a mere committee.

He also said that an adjournment motion for a debate on alleged rigging and a probe into the allegations had for the first time been moved in the Senate.

Regretting that the Senate had been ignored, he said a separate committee of the Senate could also be formed. “We have serious reservations over the government’s decision,” he said, asking the government to fulfil its promise of constituting a commission.

Senator Jahanzeb Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal claimed that it was not the Election Commission of Pakistan, but some other institution that conducted the polls in the country, helping those it wanted to gain power. He said the winning candidates were defeated by changing the results overnight, adding that turning these results was easy in the constituencies where the margin between the winner and the runner up was not more than 1,500 votes.

He claimed that a candidate from Makran had polled 5,000 votes which were later changed to 35,000. He said the parliamentary committee must have members from the Senate. “The country needs free and transparent elections,” he added.

Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz said the government would remove all doubts of the opposition about the transparency of the election process.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2018