NA speaker backs open vote in Senate elections

Published January 21, 2021
NA Speaker Asad Qaiser emphasised that open or traceable vote in the upcoming Senate elections would strengthen parliamentary democracy in the country. — Photo courtesy GOP Twitter/File
NA Speaker Asad Qaiser emphasised that open or traceable vote in the upcoming Senate elections would strengthen parliamentary democracy in the country. — Photo courtesy GOP Twitter/File

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Wednesday emphasised before the Supreme Court hearing a presidential reference that open or traceable vote in the upcoming Senate elections would strengthen parliamentary democracy in the country.

“It is highly desirable that voting for the Senate should be through open or traceable vote rather than through secret ballot so as to strengthen parliamentary democracy of which the political parties are linchpin,” argued a synopsis furnished by the NA speaker through senior counsel Abdul Latif Yousafzai.

“It is the constitutional obligation and bounden duty of all organs of the state, including parliament, the Supreme Court and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as well as the federal and provincial governments to take all respective constitutional and legal measures to ensure that the democratic process in the country is transparent and purified and all illegal, corrupt and dishonest practices, particularly the highly damaging practices of buying and selling of votes in the Senate elections, are curbed as these seriously damage and defame the democratic process,” it added.

In a synopsis furnished before SC, Qaiser says traceable vote will strengthen parliamentary democracy

The synopsis was filed days after the ECP took a plea before the Supreme Court that the Senate elections were always held under the Constitution through secret ballot for the purposes of Article 226.

A five-judge SC bench is deliberating on the presidential reference that has sought the court’s opinion whether the condition of secret ballot under Article 226 of the Consti­tution applies to the Senate elections or not.

The synopsis filed by the NA speaker stated that it was the most desirable and noble goal that elections were conducted in a transparent, just, honest and fair manner. “Any semblance of horse-trading, vote buying or vote selling involving members of the august houses of parliament or the provincial assemblies is highly damaging for the integrity and respect not only for parliament and the provincial assemblies but also for the entire democratic process in the country,” it argued.

In the past, the synopsis regretted, there were serious allegations and numerous instances of vote buying in the Senate elections, which not only damaged the purity of the electoral process but also raised serious questions on the integrity and legitimacy of the democratic process and the rule of law.

“Therefore, it is the obligation of all organs of the state to take steps within the respective limits prescribed under the Constitution and the law to act with promptitude in order to ensure that such corrupt, illegal and highly undesirable practice of vote buying and vote selling in the Senate elections should be stopped at the earliest possible opportunity available to respective constitutional organs of the state,” it said.

The synopsis stated that a bill — 26th Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 — was introduced in the National Assembly in October last year to amend Articles 59, 63 and 226 of the Constitution. Simultaneously, it added, a bill to amend the provisions of Elections Act, 2017 was also introduced. These bills are pending before the relevant standing committee of the National Assembly.

“It is the prerogative of parliament to amend these articles as well as the Elections Act, 2017. But it is the prerogative of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution,” the synopsis contended, adding that the factum of the pendency of any bill before the National Assembly might not prejudice the jurisdiction of the apex court to interpret provisions of the Constitution, in particular Article 226.

At the same time, the synopsis argued, the fact that parliament was engaged in discussing the bills could not be considered as a valid ground for requesting the Supreme Court to abstain from interpreting the provisions of the Constitution or the law. “The provisions of the Constitution and the laws remain in the field till these are amended in accordance with the method prescribed in the Constitution and the courts are to interpret the same as they stand,” it added.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021

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