Ordinance on Senate polls

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PRESIDENT Arif Alvi on Saturday signed the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 202 to pave way for Senate elections through an open and identifiable ballot. The Ordinance further states that after the Senate polls, if the head of a political party wishes to see the ballot cast by any member of his party, the Election Commission of Pakistan shall show them the same.

As anticipated opposition parties reacted sharply to this development terming it an attempt by PTI government to pressurise the Supreme Court to decide the presidential reference seeking open Senate vote in its favour. Declaring the move as illegal and unconstitutional, they said the constitution couldn’t be amended through an ordinance. As apex court is seized with matter of open ballot, we understand that it will also look into legality and practicality of presidential ordinance, though one cannot doubt intention of the government to bring transparency in the Senate polls. Apart from Presidential reference, it also introduced a constitutional amendment in the National Assembly a few days back that met stiff resistance from opposition parties. It is most unfortunate that even on such an important matter aimed at curbing malpractices in Senate polls, government and opposition parties are not ready to sit together and find a common ground. This matter should have been resolved without any wrangling as other political parties including the PML (N) and the PPP have also in the past expressed similar desires.

However onus for creating an enabling environment for dialogue rested on the government and if it was really serious to hold Senate elections through open ballot, it should have come up with its plan much earlier, at least one year or six months ago. Instead of making the Senate polls controversial, sanity must prevail and all political parties while rising above their differences should sit together to reach a consensus. Given current environment and paucity of time, it will be better if upcoming Senate elections are conducted as per previous practice of secret ballot and then after threadbare discussion in Parliament, next course could be decided for future elections.