ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Thursday, announced holding Senate polls on March 3 on 48 out of 52 seats that are falling vacant, with four of the eight erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) seats to stand abolished in the upcoming polls, after the retirement of the senators elected on these seats, following FATA’s merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to the polls’ schedule, notification inviting nominations for Senate polls was issued Thursday, filing of nomination papers: February 12-13, publication of nominated candidates’ names: February 14, scrutiny of nomination papers: February 15-16, filing of appeals against acceptance/rejection of nominations: February 17-18, disposal of appeals by the tribunal: February 19-20, revised list of candidates: February 21, withdrawal of candidature (if any): February 22 and polling date: March 3.
Polling would be held at Parliament House and all the four provincial legislatures.
Senate elections would be held on 12 seats each of KP and Balochistan, 11 seats each of Punjab and Sindh and two seats of Islamabad.
In each province, the elections would be held on seven general seats, two on women seats and two technocrats/Ulema seats. In KP and Balochistan, elections would be held on one seat each for non-Muslims. Elections on the remaining two non-Muslims seats; one each of Punjab and Sindh, are scheduled in 2024.
In 104-seat Senate, each province has 23 seats—14 general seats, four women seats, four technocrats/Ulema seats and one non-Muslim seat. Erstwhile FATA has eight general seats and Islamabad has four seats—two general and two women.
Following FATA’s merger into KP, four erstwhile FATA seats would be abolished in upcoming elections. Half of the Senate membership retires every three years after completing its term. After the abolition of eight erstwhile FATA seats, the number of Senate seats would be reduced to 96 with 48 senators retiring every three years.
As of now, it is unclear whether Senate elections would be held on open ballot system or secret ballot. President Arif Alvi has recently promulgated an ordinance for open ballot in Senate elections. The ordinance is linked to the decision of Supreme Court that is hearing a presidential reference on open ballot. If Supreme Court’s decision is not arrived regarding presidential reference before Senate elections or if the Apex Court does not rule in favour of the federal government, then the Senate polls would be held on secret ballot, Business Recorder has learnt.
In December last year, federal government said it wanted ‘early’ Senate elections. This attracted strong criticism from opposition parties that were of the view that ECP, not federal government, was empowered to hold Senate polls.
In the backdrop of this controversy, ECP finally issued a statement in December which said “Last four or five Senate elections were held in the first week of March. The ECP would announce at an appropriate time the date for Senate elections in the form of elections’ schedule, as per law and Constitution.”
The constitutional timeframe for Senate polls is February 10 - March 11 keeping in view Article 224(3) as the term of 52 senators expires on March 11 this year.
Article 224(3) reads, “An election to fill the seats in the Senate which are to become vacant on the expiration of the term of the members of the Senate shall be held not earlier than 30 days immediately preceding the day on which the vacancies are due to occur.”
Senators including Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla, Leader of the Opposition Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Parliamentary Leader Sherry Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq as well as Abdul Rehman Malik, Ayesha Raza Farooq, Atta Ur Rehman, Chaudhry Tanvir, Farooq Naek, Khushbakht Shujat, Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Muhammad Ali Saif, Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Muhammad Usman Kakar, Mushahid Ullah Khan, Pervaiz Rasheed, Sajid Mir among others would retire from Senate on March 11.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021