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ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition has decided to oppose the government’s proposed constitutional amendment bill in both Houses of the Parliament, aimed at holding Senate elections through open ballot.

Sources privy to the development told Business Recorder that the leadership of major opposition parliamentary parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) – have also contacted other opposition parties not part of the PDM, including Jamaat-e-Islami, to block the government’s move to amend the Constitution to pave the way for open balloting in Senate polls.

They said that the opposition parties will chalk out its strategy ahead of the sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate on Monday, as the government is expected to introduce the bill to amend the Constitution of Pakistan in order to change the procedure of Senate elections from a secret vote to open balloting.

The government is short of numbers in both houses of the parliament, as the constitutional amendment bill requires a two-thirds majority for passage, which is not possible without the support of the opposition parties.

Talking to Business Recorder, PPP’s parliamentary leader in Senate Sherry Rehman vowed to block the proposed bill in the Senate, saying “there is ill intention behind the move which is being done in haste”.

“The government has some vested interest in bringing the amendment in the Constitution, despite the fact the presidential reference is still pending before the Supreme Court,” she said, adding why the government is in such a hurry to bring an amendment when the Senate elections are around the corner?

She said that it is Prime Minister Imran Khan who has long been accusing his own party’s lawmakers of selling their votes and the “rates” of votes are determined by no one other than the prime minister.

“The government is doing this because the prime minister does not trust his own lawmakers. This is the reason he has released development funds worth Rs500 million to his party members ahead of Senate polls, which is an open bribe,” she maintained.

She alleged that the prime minister is openly trying to “steal” the Senate elections, but the opposition will ensure that the polls be held as per law and the Constitution.

Sharing the details of the proposed bill, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said in a presser last week that the first amendment would seek to replace “single transferable vote” in Article 59(2) of the Constitution with “open vote”.

Thus, the Senate voting process would no longer remain secret, he added.

Second, Article 63(1)(c), which is related to disqualifications for membership of parliament, would be amended to allow overseas Pakistanis and Pakistanis with dual nationalities to contest elections.

However, they would be required to renounce their citizenship of the foreign country before taking the oath of office.

If the person loses the election, this condition will not be applicable, according to the proposed amendment.

Third, the government would seek to amend Article 226 of the Constitution to include the word “Senate” in it, so elections could be held through an open ballot.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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