ISLAMABAD: In the midst of sharp criticism by opposition parties of the promulgation in the forthcoming Senate polls of the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 for Transparent Voting, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Babar Awan explained that if the Supreme Court does not approve the presidential reference, the order will automatically die.
The PM’s assistant said the government adopted the presidential ordinance with the sunset clause when talking to Dawn on Sunday, as it would die if a SC decision in the presidential reference came against free voting and before the Senate elections.
On December 23, last year, President Arif Alvi accepted a resolution by Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking an opinion from the SC on conducting Senate elections by open ballot. Nevertheless, on Saturday, the government promulgated the order for free voting in the Senate elections prior to the SC decision on the matter.
Awan points out the move was possible only before announcement of Senate elections schedule
Just two days after the meeting of both the Senate and the National Assembly was prolonged, the opposition accused the government of bringing the country into political chaos by implementing the ‘controversial’ declaration.
Asked why the decree was promulgated ‘in hurry,’ Mr. Awan explained that before Thursday (Feb 11) when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was scheduled to announce the Senate election date, the government decided to implement it as the Election Act 2017 could not be changed until the timetable was published. He claimed that on Wednesday the government had tabled the constitution amendment bill with the strong intention of curbing the horse-trading practise and the use of money in the Senate elections, but hooliganism marred the session by the opposition.The session of the Senate and National Assembly lasted over three weeks, but the opposition did not utter a single word in order to explain their position against the Senate’s free vote, he added.
The parliamentary affairs advisor said that the main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), signed in 2006 under the Democracy Charter, agreed to block the parliament’s way of horse trading. But, he said, when the government made an effort to curtail horse trade, they both resisted it.
In answer to a query as to why President Alvi had to enact the decree, the advisor claimed that by promulgating the decree, the president had not broken constitutional rules, as the president was a member of parliament under Article 50 of the Constitution. He read out the article which stated: “There shall be a Pakistani Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament) consisting of the President and two houses known as the National Assembly and the Senate, respectively.”
In order to offer more evidence, he also read Article 86 of the Constitution, which stated: ‘Except when the [Senate or] National Assembly is in session, the President can, if it is satisfied that there are circumstances which require immediate action to be taken, render and promulgate an Ordinance as the circumstances may require.’
A source privy to the development said Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan flouted the notion of promulgating the ordinance and it was approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The concept was also endorsed by Law Minister Farogh Naseem. The source disclosed that there was no resistance to the concept by any of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chiefs.
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It is important to note that the request to obtain the advice of the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution was also put out by the Attorney General.
The ECP has been entirely quiet so far about the government’s attempt to change the Elections Act. 52 seats in the upper house of parliament are to be elected, as half of the 104 members of the Senate will resign on 11 March.