Govt wants to hold Senate elections through an open ballot
Loud whistling interrupted the PTI MNAs as they tried to argue in favour of the 26th constitutional amendment bill that seeks to change the way votes are cast during Senate elections.
Law Minister Farogh Naseem had introduced the bill in the assembly on Wednesday. The discussion on the bill resumed on Thursday in a session chaired by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri.
The members of the opposition, who don't want the open ballot during the upcoming Senate elections, surrounded the speaker's dice and chanted slogans.
Some even held posters saying "Mr Deputy Speaker. Give opposition the mic."
The opposition members also created a ruckus as Federal Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan took the floor of the assembly. Khan wasn't able to complete his speech because of the noise.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi commented on the behaviour of the opposition members. "They talk about the sanctity of Parliament and look at the way they have been behaving." They have shown their true faces to the nation.
The government is taking steps to finish corrupt practices in the country, but these people want them to continue, he remarked.
"You can't expect people who become a part of the Senate through horse-trading to bring more transparency and accountability in the country," Qureshi said. These people are clearly only interested in making money.
"Do you care so much about politics that you have forgotten about our democratic values?"
He said that the government had two ways to go about changing the voting system.
PPP's Raja Pervaiz Ashraf took the floor and said that he tried to speak four times but the government members didn't let him. "This has never happened in the history of Parliament," he added.
The opposition members are being given the floor to speak on the matter. He claimed that Naveed Qamar, an honourable member of the National Assembly, was attacked and abused were hurled at him when he was staging his protest.
The government members said that they have tabled this bill to expose us. "You are not exposing us but yourself."
We respect Parliament and understand the law, he added.
Grand Democratic Alliance MNA Ghous Bakhsh Khan Mahar said that no respectable people whistle in Parliament.
You have to follow a proper decorum while attending the National Assembly sessions. He remarked that many opposition members have forgotten that they are in Parliament and not in a cinema hall.
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.