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ISLAMABAD: President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi on Saturday issued Elections (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, for introducing an open ballot system in the upcoming Senate elections despite the fact that country’s apex court is seized with a reference regarding the same issue.

Through the ordinance, the federal government has proposed amendment in Sub-section (6) of Section 122 of the Elections Act, 2017.

It proposed that in Sub-section (6) of Section 122 for full stop at the end, a colon shall be substituted and thereafter, the following two provisos shall be added; “Provided that in case the Supreme Court of Pakistan gives an opinion in Reference No.1 of 2021 filed under Article 186 of the Constitution, that elections for members of Senate do not fall within the purview of Article 226 of the Constitution, the poll for elections for members of the Senate to be held in March, 2021 and thereafter shall be conducted by the Commission through open and identifiable ballot: Provided further that after the elections for members of Senate, if the head of the political party requests the Commission to show the ballot cast by any voting member of his party, the Commission shall show the same to the head of the political party or his nominee,” the ordinance reads.

The presidential ordinance has been promulgated at a time when the federal government has already moved the Supreme Court seeking its guidance over holding the Senate elections on open ballot.

Earlier, the federal government was hoping that the Supreme Court would issue its decision regarding presidential reference on Senate polls before February 11, the date announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), to issue Senate elections’ schedule.

Hours before the promulgation of the ordinance, reports surfaced from government circles suggesting that the federal cabinet approved the ordinance.

Article 89 deals with presidential ordinances.

“The President may, except when the Senate or National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an Ordinance as the circumstances may require,” Article 89(1) reads.

An ordinance, in the light of Article 89, remains in effect for 120 days and can be extended only once for a further 120 days, if a resolution for its extension is passed by either the Senate or the National Assembly, and stands permanently lapsed after the passage of the extended period.

Recently, the government moved the 26th constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly for holding Senate polls on open ballot but the NA session was prorogued after the opposition created an uproar over the bill.

The government is now relying on the Supreme Court’s directions regarding the Senate polls.

Speaking to Business Recorder, Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, said the opposition rejects any presidential ordinance regarding Senate polls.

“We would not let treasury benches bypass the Parliament and promulgate ordinances habitually and needlessly. If the government wants to get 26th constitutional amendment bill passed, it has to take all parliamentary political parties into confidence to forge consensus. The government is not in position to take a solo flight on the matter,” he said, confirming that the opposition would challenge this ordinance in the Supreme Court.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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