Staff Reporter Islamabad
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday said that the upcoming Senate elections, scheduled to be held on 3 March, would be “conducted as provided in the Constitution and law as per past practice.”
In a statement, the ECP said the decision had been taken due to “time constraints”. A meeting of the Election Commission was held under the chairmanship of the Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja and was attended by its members — retired justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, retired Justice Irshad Qaiser, Shah Mohammad Jatoi, and Nisar Ahmed Durrani.
According to a statement issued by the ECP, the meeting was held on March 1, the same day the Supreme Court shared its opinion on the presidential reference, saying that polls for the upper house of parliament will be held through secret ballot, according to Article 226 of the Constitution.
The meeting discussed the SC’s short order, deciding to “implement it in letter and spirit”. The apex court had said that it is the Election Commission’s “duty […] to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly, and by the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against”.
“The Election Commission is required to take all available measures including utilizing technologies to fulfill the solemn constitutional duty to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and by the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against.”
It emphasized that all institutions were bound to follow the ECP. During the meeting, the commission observed that it had not received a detailed order from the Supreme Court.
However, it decided to constitute a three-member committee, comprising the special secretary, director general (IT), and joint provincial election commissioner from Punjab that would take input from different professionals and technical organizations on the use of technology in Senate elections.
The committee would then prepare recommendations based on the input within four weeks. It could also “take assistance from Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority), FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) and the ministry of information technology […] for better recommendations”.
Meanwhile, The Election Commission has also established a special monitoring cell to stop corrupt practices in the Senate elections.
This cell will remain operational round the clock. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the chief election commissioner is personally monitoring the Senate elections and the people can directly send their complaints regarding corrupt practices in the elections to his email address [email protected]
The chief election commissioner also held a meeting with the chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the director-general Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and sought their proposals to end corrupt practices in the elections.
Other steps were taken by the ECP to ensure transparency in Senate elections include the release of code of conduct, getting affidavits from the candidates, and establishment of Digital Facilitation Centre.
Polling on the 37 vacant seats of the Senate will be held today (Wednesday). Polling will start at the Parliament House Islamabad and the provincial assemblies of Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 09:00 am and will continue till 5:00 pm without any break.
All the eleven candidates for Senate from Punjab have already been elected unopposed. Two senators will be elected from the federal capital, eleven from Sindh and twelve from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In the federal capital, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh of PTI and Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani of PPP are vying for the general seat whilst the women seat, Fozia Arshad of PTI and Farzana Kausar of PML (N) are in the field.
Twenty-five candidates are in the field for twelve seats of Senate from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, twenty-six from Balochistan, and seventeen from Sindh province.