ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday noted that two major political parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – have not opposed the Presidential Reference on Senate election.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Yahya Afridi on Tuesday heard the Reference regarding holding of Senate election either through “secret ballot” or “open ballot”.
Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed said PPP and PML-N had not filed any reply in response from the Reference, but Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam (JUI), another opposition party, had contested it.
He further said that Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), too, had also challenged the reference.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said one of the opposition parties was the victim of vote buying and selling in the Senate election.
At the outset of the hearing, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani told the bench that there seemed to be an ambiguity as after the approval of the federal cabinet, the 26th constitutional amendment was tabled in the National Assembly which was handed over to its Committee.
He said the federal government was availing two remedies for one cause.
He stated if the bill was passed or not passed by the parliament and the Supreme Court rendered an opinion on the reference which was different from the parliament then it would not be good.
Justice Ijaz said interpretation of the constitutional provisions was the domain of the apex court, adding that the parliament could amend the constitution or pass the law but their interpretation was the jurisdiction of Supreme Court.
The chief justice said if the federal government wanted to withdraw the reference “then it was okay” otherwise, it would have to answer court’s queries.
The CJP questioned how Article 186 of the Constitution was redundant if the parliament wanted to amend the constitutional provision, adding, “let the federal government do what they like”.
The AGP, responding to Senator Raza Rabbani’s assertion that the government is blowing hot and cold at the same time, stated if the federal government is convinced that there is no need for interpretation then it will go for amending the constitution.
He, however, stated that the interpretation of the constitution was the domain of the Supreme Court.
The AGP contended that the federal government is leaving no stone unturned to plug the menace of horse trading and buying and selling of votes in Senate elections.
He said, on the other hand, however, the opposition parties were making all-out efforts to block the government’s move to end horse trading in the Senate election.
He said the Charter of Democracy (CoD) was signed between the opposition parties, adding that Benazir Bhutto had signed the charter with a view to end - horse trading and corrupt practices in elections.
He said the opposition was playing politics on the reference, adding that “not every war is won”.
The court said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was responsible to hold elections in a free and transparent manner.
Justice Ijaz said the National Assembly elections were held through secret ballot, adding “if there was complaint of rigging from any constituency then it scrutinised the ballot papers”.
He questioned if the ECP could scrutinise the National Assembly elections then why the same could not be done in the Senate election if conducted through a secret ballot.
The AGP said he did not know why the ECP had taken a different stance.
The chief justice asked the AGP that they understood the federal government’s anxiety that there should be no horse-trading in the Senate election.
The AGP replied that open ballot was for transparency and to end the practice of buying and selling of votes in Senate elections.
The case was adjourned until today (Wednesday).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021