Monday September 20, 2021

Political alliances aren’t hidden: SC

February 23, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Resuming hearing in the presidential reference seeking open ballot in the upcoming Senate elections, the Supreme Court Monday observed that there was no such thing as hidden political alliances and democracy would remain a dream unless the prevalent method of voting was changed.

A five-member larger bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Yahya Afridi — heard the reference.

According to Jang, the apex court observed that continuing with the prevalent system of the Senate elections would tantamount to allowing the elected representatives to violate the discipline of their respective parties.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that the country’s electoral system had stuck at one place and the country could not move ahead even for a day since the passage of the 1973 Constitution. Justice Bandial remarked that a good democracy needed strong political parties. He observed that if the secret ballot method remained prevalent, then the parliamentarians will continue to violate the party discipline.

The apex court was told that the purpose of the secret ballot was not only to maintain the sanctity of the vote, but also to protect the secrecy of the voter. Continuing his arguments, Raza Rabbani pleaded that all elections were held under the Constitution, and as per Article 226 of the Constitution elections other than the prime minister and chief ministers are held under secret ballot.

He submitted that making the ballot identifiable will violate the spirit of Article 226 of the Constitution that enshrined that all elections other than prime minister and chief minister shall be held under the secret ballot.

He contended that the deep state will blackmail the members of the Senate and the assembly. Rabbani said it was true that ballot papers were sealed at the polling stations but it’s also easy for the deep state to have an easy access to the ballot papers. At one point, Justice Umar Ata Bandial told Raza Rabbani that the system he wanted to continue will promote individual heroism.

Rabbani contended that all elections were held under the Constitution and the court will have to keep in mind that all elections under the Constitution were to be held through the secret ballot.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked if it won’t be a violation of proportional representation when a party’s strength was not reflected in the Senate elections. Rabbani said the Senate election was not a mathematics formulae but a political matter and calculations remain different in math and the Senate election.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen said if something illegal was done, then it was the constitutional mandate of the Election Commission to investigate the matter and guard against the corrupt practice after evidence comes to the surface.

At one point, Rabbani quoted media reports stating that the MQM and PTI had signed an agreement under which the PTI will release funds in the coming budget for conducting population census in Karachi and in return the MQM will give seven votes to the ruling PTI in the upcoming Senate elections. Later, the court adjourned the matter for today (Tuesday) and Mian Raza Rabbani will continue his argument.