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December 15, 2020

PTI govt decides to hold Senate elections in February: sources


Tue, Dec 15, 2020
Senate of Pakistan. — The News/Files

The federal government has decided to hold the Senate elections in February, sources said Tuesday, as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) mounts up pressure on the Centre.

The elections were scheduled for March; however, some ministers have informed Geo News that the government will move the Supreme Court to hold the elections.

The decision was taken by the government during a cabinet meeting by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

 Addressing a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said that the PTI-led government is striving to make the Senate elections free and fair.

"Controversies have always surrounded the Senate elections. It is such an old practice that it is assumed that in the elections, [horse trading] will surely take place," he said.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz addresses a post-cabinet meeting press conference, in Islamabad, on December 15, 2020. — YouTube

Reminding the people of PTI's promise to bringing about reforms in the electoral process, he said that PM Imran Khan had dismissed 20 members of provincial assemblies.

He said that the Supreme Court had issued a short order regarding free and fair elections, following which the government had introduced a bill in the National Assembly.

The information minister said that the government mulled over getting the bill ratified through several means — either through a constitutional amendment, executive order, or the election commission.

After pondering over the matter, the government decided to move the apex court regarding the matter, he said, adding that the government seeks an election that is conducted through "show of hands".

Faraz said that the government expects to get guidance from the Supreme Court long before the Senate elections.

"This is in favour of all parties," he said.

What transpired during the cabinet meeting

The move to hold elections early was proposed by Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, according to sources, which was agreed to by the prime minister and other members of the cabinet.

Through the open voting process, everyone will know who voted for whom in the Senate elections.

The government, according to sources, has decided to approach the Supreme Court to ensure the polls are held in February. However, Chaudhry opposed the move, saying that the government should instead consult the Opposition for any electoral reforms.

"We are ready to talk to the Opposition on electoral reforms," answered the prime minister. "[However] Whenever we try to talk to the Opposition, they tell us to throw out their [corruption] cases," he said.

During the meeting, Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan put forth his legal opinion on holding the elections early while Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan briefed members of the cabinet on the legal and political angles of the move. 

Sindh responds

Responding to the development, Sindh government's spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said that the Centre had "no knowledge" of the law, adding that it had "nothing to do" with the rule of law.

"Announcing Senate elections is not the prerogative of the government," Wahab said. "The Election Commission of Pakistan had the authority to announce a date for the polls."

Commenting on the Centre's idea of introducing a new voting method, Wahab said that under the Election Act, Senate elections are held via secret balloting.

"Conducting polls through the show of hands is unconstitutional," Wahab stressed.

Taking a jibe at the federal government, Wahab further added that it follows its own logic and "regrets it later".

The spokesperson urged the Centre to refrain from resolving Parliamentary matters elsewhere.

"Politicians have to understand that the Parliament is there to resolve political issues," he said.

Commenting on the Centre's decision to move the Supreme Court, he said that if the government wants to take up everything with the judiciary, then the prime minister should sit at home.

"If you want to change the law, bring an amendment in Parliament and avoid pushing every matter to court," he added.