By Raaziq Shah/Aftab Zahoor
ISLAMABAD, Feb 24 (APP): Amidst allegations of horse trading and buying and selling of Members Provincial Assemblies for the Senate election, the country’s top institutions are at crossroads to decide either to do away with the plagued mechanism or to live with it during days ahead.
Soon the Senate election neared in the uproar of horse trading surfaced once again in the form of secret videos or cross claims and blames marring the beauty of electoral process for the highest parliamentary forum in the country.
Since the rumors of buying and selling of the members forming the electoral-college for the Senate, surfaced once again, the government approached the Supreme Court seeking explanation of the articles concerning the secret ballot – a move opposed by the opposition.
Senate of Pakistan, being the House of the Federation gives equal representation to all the federating units to promote national cohesion and harmony by counter balancing the numerical disparity among provinces in the National Assembly.
It is a permanent House symbolizing a process of continuity and was formed on the principle of ‘Chamber of Continuity’ to ensure smooth transition of power of lower house and government.
It is a historic moment and the forthcoming elections can provide a golden chance to promote fair politics through open balloting that will help bury the horse trading forever.
Keeping in view the grave allegation of horse-trading and purchasing loyalties in the Senate elections, Prime Minister Imran Khan has suggested to hold the elections through open balloting to ensure credibility and transparency. However, political parties in opposition refused to join this effort towards fairness.
The Prime Minister repeatedly and with a strong voice pleaded his case seeking support of political parties to e4nd this anomaly once and for all. But, his overture of electoral reforms was replied in negative so the government had to approach the apex court for explanation on the articles concerning secret ballot.
Unlike National Assembly, members of the Senate are directly elected by respective provincial assemblies under Article 59 of the Constitution wherein each provincial assembly elects 23 each Senators including 14 on general seats, four on seats reserved for ulema and technocrats, four on seats reserved for women and one on seat reserved for non-Muslims.
The term of office for Senators is six years and one-half of its members retire every three years. A casual vacancy in the Senate, caused by resignation, death, incapacitation, disqualification or removal of a member, is filled through election by the respective Electoral College.
In March 03, 2021 Senate election on 48 seats, every provincial assembly would elect seven Senators on general seats, two each on seats reserved for women and technocrats and one on minority seat. One member would be elected on general and women seats from Islamabad.
All the political parties have already fielded their candidates and political pundits predict that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is expected to emerge as the single largest party in the Senate owing to its majority in Punjab and KPK assemblies and the National Assembly.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz who is himself a Senator says that all elections including the Senate election should be held in fair and transparent manner.
Talking to media persons and speaking at floors of the Parliament, the Minister reiterated his stance repeatedly that Senate election has both legal and moral aspects. “It is a sensitive matter and the country is at critical juncture of the history. We have to decide whether we have to promote use of money in politics or strengthen institution on basis of merit and eligibility.”
He said the opposition parties could not even implement those points in letter and spirits that they had agreed while inking Charter of Democracy. “Prime Minister Imran Khan is committed to ending use of money to engineer elections. We are striving to bring genuine representatives of the people in the parliament and this is not possible without ending sale and purchase of votes.”
He said now the people have realized the importance of transparency in the Senate elections and desired to end use of money in politics and elect candidates on the basis of their capabilities. “Buying and selling of votes undermined democracy and moral values.”
Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood termed the Senate as a platform that provides equal representation to provinces and plays a pivotal role in legislation.
He regretted the allegations of horse trading and said, it makes the democratic system dubious as he urged the opposition to support open balloting process in the Senate election.
He said the Senate also undertakes legislation that translates policies for the welfare and betterment of the Federation, the Federating Units and its citizenry. But, the real face and image of this august forum was tarnished over the years by horse trading and use of money in its elections.
“Basically it is a moral issue on which PTI has taken a clear stance. Horse trading has raised questions on Senate elections. We had moved a bill on this issue but unfortunately opposition did not support it.”
Highlighting the role of Senate, Chairman Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Mushahid Hussain Sayed said the Senate has crucial role in formulation of all important policies, legislation and various national issues.
“The spirit of the Senate being part of the Parliament draws back our attention to the situation prior to 1973 constitution when our predecessors tried to run the country as a unitary state on basis of centralism,” Mushahid said.
Therefore, the basic purpose of having a Senate in 1973 constitution was to ensure equal representation of the federating units, he said. “This House has vigorously raised its voice in supreme national interest on issues like Iraq war, Salala incident, Yemen war, facilities to provinces.”
He said the present issues do not directly relate to the House of Senate. “It is an anomaly of the process and if horse trading is reported from any region it should be eliminated through proper legislation. We need to address this issue collectively.”
JUI-F member National Assembly Shahida Akhtar Ali said the Senate should enact laws on issues confronting the people. “Let us join hand and make the Senate play a leading role in addressing these issues.”