Electoral Reforms: PML-N and PPP to oppose PTI’s constitution amendment?

Two main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), have criticized the government for its efforts to bring in constitution amendment. The government is reportedly deliberating over introducing an amendment to conduct the upcoming Senate elections through the open ballot.

“The constitution amend­ments are not piecemeal. If you think there are faults in the election system, then you need to bring a whole package,” said PML-N’s senior vice-president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while commenting on Tuesday’s decision of the federal cabinet to table a bill in the parliament to amend the constitution for holding Senate polls through open vote.

Mr Abbasi said that if the government was sincere about electoral reforms, then it should bring it in the form of a package and the opposition would also come up with suggestions, adding that they had already demanded that there should be no role of the army in the conduct of elections.

The PML-N leader alleged that the government was doing all this because of the fear that its own members would not vote for the ruling party’s candidates in the upcoming Senate polls.

Notably, the Sindh government has opposed the federal government’s proposal before the Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking its opinion whether the condition of secret ballot under Article 226 of the Cons­titution applies to the Senate elections or not.

“In the circumstances, the moral suitability of the question for an opinion under the advisory jurisdiction of Article 186 of the Constitution is questionable,” the Sindh government contended in a synopsis, adding that the apex court should decline to offer its opinion for reasons of judicial propriety. The synopsis was moved through Advocate General Salman Talibuddin.

In its reply, the Sindh government contended that it could safely be discerned from the discussion on different provisions of the Constitution that the elections to the Senate are elections “under the Constitu­tion” as expressed by a plain and ordinary reading of Article 226 of the Constitution.

Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani has backed holding Senate elections via open ballot in his response to a reference pertaining to the matter filed by the government in the Supreme Court.

In his five-page response to the SC filed through his lawyer Tariq Aziz, Sanjrani said allegations of floor-crossing (changing party loyalties) and rigging were leveled following the 2015 Senate elections after which there was a debate over the polling procedure.

Read more: Will MQM-P support PTI in Senate Elections?

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Balochistan governments have also backed the federal government’s opinion of holding open-ballot polls, while Sindh has rejected the idea.

A five-judge larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi, hearing the reference.

The apex court had issued notices to Advocate Generals, the Election Commission of Pakistan, Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly and the Speakers of provincial assemblies over the issue.