‘SC, parliament may face off over Senate polls’

Senator Raza Rabbani of the PPP has expressed apprehension that the Supreme Court and the parliament may ultimately face off in a matter related to Senate elections mode.

A five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, on Tuesday resumed hearing a presidential reference seeking the Supreme Court’s opinion on a governmental proposal to hold the upcoming Senate election on basis of open ballot without going for a constitution amendment.

Rabbani – who is a party to the case –came to the rostrum and pointed out that the government has already started the process to introduce the 26th constitution amendment for holding Senate elections through open ballot.

“It seems that the government wants to avail two different remedies on the same matter. Therefore, the question regarding violation of tracheotomy of powers may arise,” he said.

However, Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that interpretation of the Constitution is the domain of the judiciary. The bench noted that the court is hearing this matter under Article 186 of the Constitution and it would give legal opinion on a question referred to by the government.

The CJ noted that if the government does not withdraw the presidential reference then they will give their opinion on the government’s question.

Appearing before the bench, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan wondered as to why both the major political parties – the PPP and the PML-N – did not introduce open ballot in the Senate election in view of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by their top leaders in 2006.

He said despite amending 102 Articles through the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the opposition did not do anything to introduce open ballot for Senate elections. “The government wants to hold the Senate polls through open ballot for ensuring transparency and ending the practice of horse-trading.”

Justice Ahsan noted that under the Constitution, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is bound to ensure that elections should be held fairly, honestly, justly and in accordance with law. He said the ECP should end corrupt practices in the elections process.

The AGP, however, raised serious questions about conduct of the ECP in the presidential reference case. He said the commission is opposing the government’s plan to hold the Senate elections through open ballot. Even the ECP has engaged a private counsel to plead its case, he added.

The bench asked ECP counsel Sajeel Swati about issuance of the Senate elections schedule. He replied that the commission is likely to issue the schedule by February 11. The hearing was later adjourned till today [Wednesday].

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)