ISLAMABAD: With just four months left for Senate polls, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday vowed to hold elections for the upper house of parliament through ‘show of hands’, and not by secret ballot, to ensure transparency and eliminate ‘vote trading’.
He also announced that electronic voting and a separate system for overseas Pakistanis would be introduced to enable them to exercise their right of franchise in the next general elections.
He expressed his government’s determination to award provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, congratulating its people for enthusiastically participating in the recently-held elections.
Addressing the media, Mr Khan said the government had decided to move a constitutional amendment in the parliament to elect new senators through ‘show of hands’ instead of a secret ballot.
Putting the ball in the opposition parties’ court, he said it had to be seen whether they “will support the government in passing the amendment with a two-thirds majority”.
“Not only the ruling PTI but other parties also agree that votes in the Senate elections are sold, but now we have to see how they [parties] respond to the constitutional amendment in the parliament,” the prime minister said, adding that the government did not enjoy a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and required the opposition members’ support to pass the amendment.
He recalled that his party had expelled 20 of its own MPAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after they were found involved in trading of votes in the 2018 Senate elections.
At present, the opposition is in majority in the Senate and, therefore, many times legislation passed by the National Assembly was bulldozed by it in the upper house in the recent past.
The forthcoming elections are, therefore, crucial for the government to secure a majority in the house where polls are held every three years when the term of half of the senators expires.
PM Khan said the government aimed to introduce two other electoral reforms — e-voting and voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
“We want elections in Pakistan to be free and fair so that those who lose accept their defeat instead of levelling allegations of rigging,” he added.
The premier talked about the rigging allegations in the two previous general elections, saying in 2013 all parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which had won the polls, agreed that the elections were rigged and 133 petitions were filed by different people in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
“After the 2013 elections, we demanded audit of four constituencies so that the shortcoming in the system could be addressed to ensure fair elections in 2018,” Mr Khan said, adding that he approached the parliament, ECP and the Supreme Court against the “rigging”, but was compelled to stage a 126-day sit-in when his request was not entertained for more than a year.
The prime minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had filed more petitions before the ECP than the opposition despite winning the 2018 elections and even constituted a committee to address its (opposition) grievances on the results. The seriousness of the opposition, however, could be gauged from the fact that it did not attend even a single meeting, he added.
“I am putting these figures forward [to clarify] that we did not have any role in [2018 election]. We did not elect election commission members, all the staff was their (PML-N) own as they were in power,” he said.
PM Khan said he was the person who had introduced the concept of “neutral umpire in cricket and now, despite resources the government was enjoying to buy votes, it wanted the Senate polls to be fair and transparent through show of hands”.
He expressed his gratitude to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan for participating in the elections despite the freezing cold and voting for PTI.
He, however, did not address the allegations of rigging levelled by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N.
According to complete but unofficial results of all 23 constituencies where voting was held on Sunday, PTI had emerged as the single-largest party with 10 seats followed by seven independents. The PPP won three seats, PML-N two while Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, which had made a seat adjustment with the PTI, secured one seat.
With the possible inclusion of four out of six reserved seats for women and two of the three reserved seats for technocrats, the total number of seats of PTI and its allies could come to 16 in the 33-member legislative assembly. This means the party would need the support of only one more winning candidate to form government in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2020