ISLAMABAD: On Tuesday, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan questioned why signatories to the Charter of Democracy (CoD) refused to do away with the possibility of horse trade in elections when implementing the 18th amendment in their pledge to abolish distortions in the Constitution.
The AGP said before a five-judge Supreme Court bench led by Pakistan’s Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, “Why the two major political parties as well as the co-author of the CoD, who is also around, did nothing to do away with this when adopting the 18th constitutional amendment through which over 100 amendments were introduced in the Green Book.”
The bench heard a presidential reference in which President Dr. Arif Alvi questioned whether or not the condition of a secret ballot under Article 226 of the Constitution extends to the elections to the Senate.
The AGP argued that the federal government was seeking to resolve the threat of horse trade and the purchase of votes, but the political enemies were opposing the same thing.
Says signatories to Charter of Democracy had promised to remove distortions in Constitution
“A market will be set up in less than a month and horses will be sold,” observed the AGP, referring to the March Senate polls.
CoD, he said, was signed by two former prime ministers in 2006. In 2007, Benazir Bhutto, who had made a vow to making every attempt to ensure that votes could not be sold, was martyred, and in 2010, the 18th amendment was adopted. But instead of making attempts to understand the promise, we are advised that, he said, the government is blowing hot and cold.
The observation came when, at the start of the hearings, PPP Senator and former Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani drew the Supreme Court’s attention to the recent decision of the federal cabinet to move to the National Assembly the 26th constitutional bill dealing with the same question.
The National Assembly’s standing committee took up the bill and tabled it in the Chamber, he added, adding that it appeared that the government was seeking two solutions for the same reason. If the Supreme Court came to a decision different from that of the parliament, the two entities will come face to face, he said.
Judge Ijazul Ahsan, a judge of the bench, pointed out that the Supreme Court had reserved exclusive authority to read the provisions of the Constitution.
However, the AGP swept aside the idea that two contradictory solutions were being sought by the government, saying the bill was put before the National Assembly in 2010 and both the speaker and the Senate chairman had already answered the question in their separate synopsis before the Supreme Court on the presidential connection.
However, the chief justice noted that it was up to the government if it intended to revoke the reference, otherwise the supreme court would answer the query before it.
Mr. Rabbani made it clear that he did not doubt the Supreme Court’s authority to view the constitutional provisions, but wished to remind the court that, at the same time, the government was blowing hot and cold.
The chief justice questioned if Article 186 of the Constitution in which the president had moved the reference before the supreme court had been obsolete if the bill for amending the Constitution had already been moved to parliament. He also asked whether the parliament had made the constitutional amendment and whether the reference had been fruitless.
Justice Ahsan also questioned whether or not the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had authority to ensure that no horse dealing would take place during the elections.
The AGP replied in an affirmative way, and when Justice Ahsan asked again why the ECP was not doing this, he claimed that the Commission opposed it.
The AGP claimed that, with the exception of listing the name of the electorate on the back of the ballot, the whole voting procedure will remain the same in the Senate elections in the event of an open ballot election. The transparent vote was for the sake of transparency, he added.