By Taj Nabi Khan
The Senate of Pakistan since its inception has played a vital role in strengthening federation, constitution, and democracy in the country by extending equal rights of representation to each federating unit.
After every three years, half of the senators (52) get retired. The Senate polls take place in accordance with Article 59 of the Constitution. This year the senators will be retiring on March 11 after completing their 6-year term. In this regard, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced the Senate elections on March 3. The majority of retiring senators (65%) are from the opposition parties.
The Senate, also called, ‘The Upper House’ one of the prestigious chambers of the legislators follows the democratic norms to elect 104 members from across the country to discuss proposed laws and vote on them. They also represent views of state, scrutinize government work, hold debate and discussion, introduce legislation, work in an efficient committee system, present petitions, and make recommendations on the Financial Bill.
In the larger scheme of its functions, the house plays a vital role in addressing the issues of smaller federating units. According to the ECP notification, out of 190 fielded candidates, the nomination papers of 141 were accepted by the concerned Returning Officers (ROs). As per the given details, 77 nominations for general seats, 34 for women seats, 20 for ulema/technocrat seats, and 10 for non-Muslim seats were accepted. Thus 9 from the federal capital, 22 from Punjab, 35 from Sindh, 40 from KP and 35 candidates from Baluchistan would contest in the upcoming elections to fill the vacant slots of the Senate. The political parties have fielded their potential candidates to contest the election.
The ruling party of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) would approve the Supreme Court decision on the presidential reference to hold the elections in a transparent manner. The reforms in the democratic process of Senate polls would make the elections more transparent. Likewise, it would also build the public confidence and improve public service delivery of the Upper House.
The Senate as the stabilizing organ of the federating system in Pakistan has promoted peace, equality and harmony. The Senate has an efficient committee system in place to cover a wide range of national issues of public interest through different committees: standing, functional, government assurances, and problems of less developed areas, human rights, rules of procedures, and privileges and houses. The Senate has upheld the rule of law, supremacy of the Constitution and democratic principles to improve the function of the organizations and strengthen the institutions of the country.
Talking to APP, PTI Senator, Prof. Dr. Mehr Taj Roghani has said the incumbent government under the visionary leadership of Imran Khan has taken tangible steps to contain horse trading and corruption in the Senate polls. She said, “Steps are being taken to correct the years-long ill-practices in the Senate polls.” The PTI has got its mandate to ensure people a corruption-free Pakistan, she added.
It is pertinent to mention that amongst the senators to be retired four out of the eight are from erstwhile FATA. However, after the merger, the Senate had to elect 48 senators with the proportions: 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and 12 each from KP and Baluchistan with two from the federal capital.
The equal membership of smaller federating units in the Senate balances the population inequality; strengthens national cohesion, addresses disparity and alleviates the fear of dominance.
Roghani said the Senate has a prominent role in legislation and oversight checking. She said, “The women legislators in the Senate focus more on issues pertaining to women alongside their empowerment and betterment in the country.” She said the Senate committees, despite the long-lasting two corona waves, have performed very well during the last two and half years, adding the age and experience-wise senior members have always played a productive role in the Senate.
ECP Spokesperson Nadeem Qasim while talking to the news agency has said that the ECP has announced a complete schedule for the Senate polls. He said the nomination papers were filed by the candidates while the scrutiny process was almost completed.
The appeals were being filed with the ROs and the date of the withdrawal of the nomination papers was also announced, he added.