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February 8, 2021

Open ballot ordinance marred by controversy

Top Story

February 8, 2021

MULTAN/ISLAMABAD: The issuance of an ordinance regarding the open ballot in Senate elections is mired in controversy as the opposition believes it is an effort to pressurise the Supreme Court, while the government says no one can put pressure, and the opposition is backing off from its commitment.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the PPP and PML-N are promoting horse trading by insisting for secret ballot in the Senate elections. He said sale of votes by public representatives would tantamount to bargaining on the people’s trust.

Talking to journalists in Multan, the minister said that Imran Khan had taken notice of horse trading last time too. “Those who have been elected on the symbol of the party should vote for them. This is not only the position of PTI, but it is also written in the Charter of Democracy. The parties have already supported open ballot, so why are they backing out from it now,” he questioned.

He said both the parties had written and signed the Article 24 of the Charter of Demands for an open ballot in the Senate, adding so why are PPP and PML-N running from the open ballot now?

Qureshi questioned why do PPP and PML-N want to set up a market, why do they want to buy people? “The whole nation wants to see who is there. They want to end the corrupt system. And who wants to continue this corrupt system and buying? Some members thought that there should be constitutional amendments on this issue but they do not have a two-thirds majority,” he said.

He added, “The PTI has gone to the Supreme Court and the court will explain the Constitution. Whatever the decision of the Supreme Court, we are open-hearted and we will acknowledge the SC verdict.”

Responding to a query, he said the Senate election had nothing to do with reducing inflation. “There are many factors that can help reduce inflation. The Senate is an institution that is a symbol of the Federation. Every issue should be raised in the Senate. The Senate is a symbol of the strength of the Federation,” he said.

Qureshi said at present, many forces are promoting terrorism in Pakistan. “There are many forces that want to spread terrorism and chaos in Pakistan. They want to weaken the federation and economy.” He hoped that the newly elected members of the Senate would help defeat the enemy forces. “They will do their best to protect the Constitution,” he maintained.

He said that PDM had announced resignations, which have not been materialised till date. “All the announcements made by PDM till date have not been fulfilled. Long march and protest is a constitutional right of PDM, and the government has recognised this right,” he said, adding that the PDM should not take the law into their hands. “Do not damage private or public property. Protest in a democratic way,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said transparency in elections was the strength of democracy. In a tweet, he said opposition’s outcry on the step to ensure transparency in the Senate elections was beyond comprehension.

He said by opposing open ballot in Senate polls, the opposition parties have made it clear that they did not want to end use of money in politics. On the other hand, the PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that the PTI government has issued ordinances regarding the Senate elections "overnight", adding that the move is an "attack on the Constitution and the Parliament."

Sherry Rehman, along with other PPP leaders, was speaking during a press conference in Karachi during which she said that the government "does not have a two-third majority to pass a constitutional amendment."

"Why did the government introduce an amendment only one month before the Senate polls? Sherry Rehman questioned. "Issuing ordinances overnight in this way is an attack on the Constitution as well as the Parliament," she added.

Sherry Rehman added that it is the job of the Parliament to bring about constitutional amendments, adding that the government should have taken the opposition's viewpoints on board before issuing the ordinance.

Adding to Sherry Rehman's criticism of the government, senior PPP leader and former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani claimed that the government did not consult any political party before drafting the amendment bill of the Senate elections.

"The PTI-led government did not hold any dialogue with the opposition regarding the amendment," Rabbani said, adding that the ordinance issued by the government in relation to the Senate elections is based on "malicious intent."

"The government is making the Senate elections controversial. The law allows us to challenge this ordinance in court," he said. Responding to the PPP's criticism, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said that for the past two years, the PPP did not contribute to any legislation of national interest.

"It was Bibi (late Benazir Bhutto) who had stipulated the idea of open-ballot voting for Senate elections in the Charter of Democracy," he said. "Why is bringing an end to the 'horse-trading' tradition causing the PPP so much pain?" he questioned.

Meanwhile, the PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal has termed the presidential ordinance regarding the Senate elections as an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court and the Constitution.

Talking to media in Narowal, Ahsan Iqbal said the constitution can’t be changed for rewarding friends of Imran Khan, adding that the aim of presidential ordinance is to give NRO.

He said that if the ordinance was declared right then tomorrow the 18th Amendment can be rolled back through a presidential reference, while an ordinance for restoring 58-2(b) can also be issued. He said that the presidential ordinance tantamount to give dictation to the Supreme Court.