Proportionate representation puts no bar on alliances, SC told

Published February 20, 2021
Senator Raza Rabbani of the PPP told the Supreme Court on Friday that the concept of proportionate representation of political parties in the Senate did not restrict major parties from accommodating smaller parties in the elections. — AFP/File
Senator Raza Rabbani of the PPP told the Supreme Court on Friday that the concept of proportionate representation of political parties in the Senate did not restrict major parties from accommodating smaller parties in the elections. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) told the Supreme Court on Friday that the concept of proportionate representation of political parties in the Senate did not restrict major parties from accommodating smaller parties in the elections.

“The political exigencies are altogether different where a political party can go for seat adjustments with smaller parties for the Senate elections,” the senior PPP leader argued before a five-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, hearing a presidential reference seeking open ballot for the Senate elections.

“It will be too ideal situation if the term proportionate representation is construed in its strict meaning by believing that the total strength of the political parties in the respective electorate college, under the principle of proportionate representation, should be a true reflection in the Senate,” he argued.

To substantiate, Mr Rabbani, who is appearing before the court in his personal capacity as well as representing the PPP, cited the example of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which enjoys a considerable majority in Punjab in the coming Senate elections, but it has given up one seat in favour of a smaller party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, its important ally in the province.

“This means that the seats of the PTI in the coming Senate elections will be one short of the total number of seats they should have in the normal course,” he argued.

Rabbani says political exigencies are altogether different where big parties can go for seat adjustments with smaller ones

Senator Rabbani emphasised that the proportionate representation for the Senate elections was a system which further spelled out three more different types or subsidiaries for realisation of the concept.

But one way was that there should be no wasted vote and the end result of these three formulas should be the reflection of the political parties in the assemblies, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan said, citing the speech of former law minister Abdul Hafeez Pirzada in which he had emphasised that each political party should have the same representation in the Senate according to their strength in the assemblies.

But Mr Rabbani contended that this concept if construed in a strict manner would mean that the Senate elections should be held in accordance with the party list system where the names of candidates were provided by the political parties according to their strength in electoral college.

The PPP counsel explained that usually major political parties combined with smaller parties by giving up their seats after getting their own quota.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, described the concept as interesting but wondered if different political parties merged into an election alliance then why such political arrangements remained secretive instead of being openly declared in public.

Mr Rabbani explained that political alliances were rarely secret alliances, though an individual or an independent candidate, who wanted to become a member of the upper house of parliament, remained secretive and might also indulge in horse-trading.

The counsel argued that the government had invoked Article 186 of the Constitution that dealt with the advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but in their frenzy they were portraying as if the present hearing was under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, where the apex court could exercise wide powers to enforce the fundamental rights of people.

Citing the famous 14 points of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the counsel pointed out that four of these points defined the relationship between the federation and provincial governments. But in view of the growing polarisation between the provinces, the concept of the upper house of parliament was derived to ensure equal representation of the federating units in the federal stream.

He said the real purpose was that all shades of political opinion in the provincial assemblies should be represented in the Senate and the marginalised sections or smaller parties would also be taken into consideration when policies were framed.

Thus the concept of proportionate representation through the single transferable vote system was introduced to ensure that the smaller parties, which otherwise may not find way in the federal stream, would get the opportunity to be represented and they may be able to send one or two Senators to the upper house, he argued.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2021

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