ISLAMABAD: The PML-N and PTI in Senate on Friday called for free, fair, tran­s­­­parent conduct of upcoming general elections and agreed that a level playing field should be provided to all political parties during the process leading to elections.

At the very outset of the proceedings, Leader of the Opposition in the House, Dr Shahzad Waseem, welcomed the consensus announcement of the election date but said that the credibility of elections was as important as the election date itself.

He said though the clouds of uncertainty over the political horizon have vanished with the announcement of the election date, it should be decided once and for all as to who is to give the election date.

He said such controversies arise when legislation repugnant to the Constitution is enacted, adding that while the Constitu­tion says the President is to announce the election date, amended law gives this po­­w­er to the Election Commission of Pak­istan. He also pointed out that the Consti­tution requires conduct of elections within 90 days after the dissolution of an assembly.

Ejaz Chaudhry seeks IHC help to attend Senate session

He said that elections should take place in a manner that no one could raise a question over their transparency and a level playing field for all must be ensured.

“It is time for 57.1 million youth of the country to give their verdict through the ballot and political parties should award tickets to young candidates. The present day challenges are grave and these could not be tackled by using the tried and tested old methods and by repeating the past mistakes,” he said.

Dr Waseem said that lesson must be learnt from incidents of the past and a journey towards a bright future should be started in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation.

Leader of the House Muhammad Ishaq Dar in his response endorsed the demand of the Opposition leader for transparent and credible elections and said: “We end­orse and demand free and fair elections.”

He said that elections should be seen to be credible. Let the international observers come and oversee the election process, he said and endorsed the view that level playing field should be provided to all.

He, however, stressed that all politicians should also agree to accept the election results with magnanimity, honesty and open heart and not to reject the poll results for political reasons and the number of seats they expect to win.

He complained that his party was not provided the level playing field in the past and it won only one out of the 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections.

Mr Dar said the Constitution does say that elections should be held within 90 days, but the rest of the constitutional provisions must also be kept in mind. He said that once the Council of Common Interests, a constitutional body, having representation from the Centre and provinces, approved the final census results, the Election Commission had no other choice but to carry out fresh delimitation.

PTI’s Mohsin Aziz said all were responsible for the challenges, the country was faced with today and no single political party could be blamed for this.

“Because of these circumstances, we lost one brother in 1971. But even today, our conduct remains haphazard,” he regretted.

He praised the caretaker government for stabilising the economy, currency, sending back foreign refugees and steps taken to curb gas and electricity theft as well as controlling smuggling.

As PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman rose and could hardly say that the poll date had been announced but it would have been better to do so early, the lack of quorum was pointed out. When the counting was made, the House was short of quorum, forcing the chairman to suspend proceedings and asked for ringing bells for two minutes. However, even after that, the House was not found in quorum and, therefore, the session was adjourned till Monday afternoon.

In a related development, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry has approached the Islam­abad High Court seeking a directive for the Senate chairman to issue his product­ion order to enable him to attend the session.

Mr Chaudhry cited the Senate chairman, secretaries of Senate Secretariat, Cabinet Division and interior, the chief secretary of Punjab and superintendent of Kot Lakhpat Jail as respondents in the petition.

The petition stated that the petitioner represented the Punjab in the upper house of parliament and, therefore, he should be allowed to attend its session.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2023

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