Horse trading stigma

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SENATE elections have always been marred by horse trading, irregularities and corruption. The situation is going to be far more depressing and alarming this time around given the events that led to the fall of Zehri-led provincial government in Balochistan which have ensured that the western province will be the hub of extensive horse-trading. It is unfortunate that due to lack of requisite legislative framework, the Election Commission of Pakistan will remain helpless to stop the dirty politics in the polls.
As the next polls for the upper house are all set to be held on 3rd March, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while addressing a public gathering in Mianwali also voiced his concerns on the illegal means adopted for getting elected to the house. He called for ‘jihad’ against political horse-trading and categorically declared to resist and shame those who would get Senate membership using their riches. Indeed the rebellion against PML (N), National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party in Balochistan Assembly and the rift within MQM-P has provided a sort of conducive environment to the opportunists to exploit the situation and get their members elected by every possible mean. Though the PM is calling for jihad against the wheelers and dealers and indeed the trend should be discouraged for the sake of democracy but the question arises as to what has been done on the parliamentarians to put a lid on this curse. It is lamentable that the parliamentarians have brought about many amendments in the Political Parties Act 1976 to serve their own ends and strengthen the hands of the party leader but no legislation has been enacted to change the procedure for Senate elections as the current one allows the members of provincial assemblies to cast their vote while ignoring the party policy. This has happened many a time in the past. A Senate panel, a couple of years back while rebuffing the idea of direct elections to choose Senators, had unanimously adopted a set of recommendations conferring on political parties the right to verify if any of their National Assembly or Provincial Assembly members voted against the party for financial gain. Had this proposal been given legal shape, today we have not been faced with the same problem of big money or floor crossing that has become a stigma on the face of Senate. Indeed the political parties will have to demonstrate bipartisan political resolve and introduce provisions in the constitution to curtail horse trading as the existing framework is detrimental to the national integration. It is also for the leaders of political parties, who always blow the trumpet of being a democrat, to really act like true democrats, respect the public mandate and avoid indulging in dirty politics. With their actions they should set such standards that their future generations could be proud of.