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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that heads of political parties have become "dictators" and parties are only "one-man shows".

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 Thursday heard the reference regarding holding of Senate election, either through “secret ballot” or “open ballot”.

The chief justice remarked that political parties should bring in democratic principles and promote democratic culture within themselves.

“The heads of the political parties have become dictators and parties are one-man shows,” he noted.

He said the political parties would have to think that their members do not become “lotas” (turncoats).

In Pakistan, parties are run by the name of persons, he further observed.

The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan said it is not limited to Pakistan; it exists in other countries as well.

He added: “there was time when four unelected persons in a party made decisions who should be the chief minister or the prime minister and who should hold important positions.”

However, he added, there are still members in parties who have taken decisions in accordance with their conscience.

The AGP argued that political parties are the linchpin of parliamentary form of government and voting through open ballot in the Upper House is necessary for the “purification of the democratic system.”

In a democracy, people vote for parties on the basis of their manifestoes. “If a party does not perform as per its manifesto then people don’t vote for it in the next elections,” he argued.

He also stated that the Senate election is through proportional representation through single transferable vote. He said the secret ballot is right in the direct election and not proportional representation. The AGP contended that in direct election a voter casts one vote, “but in the Senate election voter gives preference vote. For the Senate the number of voters is limited and the electoral college is narrow; therefore, the voter needs to be identified.”

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said voters for the Senate elections are the representatives of the people; therefore, there is double responsibility on him.

“One to the constituency to whom it represents, and second, to the party which has given him or her a ticket for contesting election for the national or the provincial assembly,” he added.

The AGP submitted that all the parties wanted an open ballot, but they are objecting to it now on the ground that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has taken this initiative. Justice Ijazul Ahsan said it is a saying of Hazrat Ali (RA) that “Look at what is being said, not who is saying it.”

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the Upper House and the Lower House have distinguished roles.

He further said the Upper House brings stability as it represents the federating units, and each unit has equal number of seats or equal representation in it.

“The Upper House members are mature and wise; therefore, it is calm, while the Lower House deals with storm-like situations,” he added.

The case was adjourned until Monday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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