LONG drawn suspense about the final fate of the upcoming Senate elections has ended with the verdict of the Supreme Court that the voting will be held through secret ballot as envisaged in Article-226 of the Constitution.
Announcing short order on presidential reference, seeking intervention of the court for holding of elections through open ballot, the top court, however, held that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is empowered to take all measures to curb corrupt practices under Article 218(3) of the Constitution, holding that the secrecy is not absolute.
The judgement augurs well for smooth and harmonious working of the system as the Supreme Court refrained from intervening in a matter that fell clearly in the domain of Parliament, adding that Parliament can pass a constitutional amendment for open ballot in the Senate elections.
This position was also held by the ECP besides the majority of jurists who were of the opinion that open ballot was not possible through interpretation of the relevant constitutional clauses or issuance of presidential ordinance, which has become null and void after the verdict of the court.
It is also good that the Government also welcomed the opinion given by the Supreme Court as was reflected in the elaborate remarks made by Senator Faisal Javed and Information Minister Shibli Faraz.
There is no doubt that the court has acknowledged the need for measures to discourage horse-trading in Senate elections and ensure transparency in polling and one can expect this is being done by the incumbent Election Commission, which acted strictly according to the book in the case of Daska by-elections.
With only hours left for the polling for Senate elections to take place, the Commission is not expected to take extraordinary measures for transparency but it is for Parliament and the Commission to propose and implement remedial measures against corrupt practices.
For this, the Government and the Opposition will have to sit together to agree on a comprehensive package of electoral reforms.