Centre wants to hold an open ballot
The Sindh government asked for a week to submit its reply in the presidential reference on holding Senate elections through an open ballot.
The Sindh advocate-general told the Supreme Court that the province wants to submit its written reply in the case.
A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard the case.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan’s lawyer opposed open ballot voting. Kamran Murtaza, the lawyer, asked for time to submit a written reply.
The court approved PPP Senator Raza Rabbani’s appeal to submit his reply in person and issued notices to other respondents as well.
We will read the written replies of the respondents and not listen to the verbal arguments of everyone, said the top judge.
Attorney-General Khalid Jawed Khan filed the reference on December 23 asking for the top court’s opinion on the open voting.
The controversy surrounding the Senate elections started when on December 15, the PTI government decided to hold the elections in February, instead of March. Following this, a debate was stirred in the cabinet regarding whether the government had the constitutional right to change the election date.
The federal government also decided to hold the Senate election through a show of hands. The decision was made during a meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
On December 22 the Election Commission clarified that Senate elections 2021 will not be held before February 10.
Various statements were issued over the Senate elections and certain opinions were expressed over the authority of the ECP, which created ambiguity, a statement by the ECP stated.
“Till now, the commission had issued no statement, but now it feels there is a need to provide legal and constitutional clarity over the matter.”
The commission said half the Senate members will retire on March 11, 2021 after completing their term. It pointed out that under Article 224(3) of the Constitution, the elections “shall be held not earlier than 30 days immediately preceding the day on which the vacancies are due to occur”.
Senate elections are held every three years and only the commission has the authority to organise them. The process is, however, spread over phases and takes roughly a month to conclude.