Amid controversies, Pakistan to hold elections for Senate on March 3

ISLAMABAD Published: Feb 11, 2021, 07:21 PM(IST)

Pakistan's flag (file photo) Photograph:( Others )

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A total of 52 senators in the 104-member upper house will retire on March 11 on completion of their six-year term.

Pakistan's election authorities on Thursday announced that the elections for the Senate will be held on March 3, amidst a raging controversy about allowing open ballot papers in the polls to avoid corruption.

A total of 52 senators in the 104-member upper house will retire on March 11 on completion of their six-year term.

They will also include four of the eight senators from the erstwhile Federally Adminis­tered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Since the areas have been merged with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, they will not be reelected and the Senate strength will shrink to 100.

Therefore, polling will be held to elect 48 senators - 12 each from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, 11 each from Punjab and Sindh and two from Islamabad, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said in a notification.

Polling will be held to elect seven members on general seats, two women and two technocrats in the four provinces.

Besides, the election on one minority seat each in KP and Balochistan will also be conducted.

The election for Senate or the upper house will be held as the country is torn apart by differences between the government and the Opposition whether to allow open ballot paper to avoid use of money.

The problem stems from the system of election as senators are elected by the respective provincial assemblies on the basis of proportional representation.

For example, in Balochistan a candidate may need just seven votes to become a senator.

A few days back a video surfaced showing some members of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly allegedly being bribed to vote against their Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party in 2018 elections.

Then PTI chief Imran Khan had expelled about 20 lawmakers for voting against the party line.

Khan has led the drive for open ballots but he is hamstrung by the Constitution of the country which asks for secret ballots.

His government last month filed an application with the Supreme Court to allow an open ballots system for the Senate election.

While the application is being heard, the PTI government first tried to amend the Constitution but failing to do so, it last week got the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 promulgated by President Arif Alvi to pave the way for Senate elections to be held via an "open and identifiable ballot".

The opposition parties have rejected the ordinance as well as the appeal in the Supreme Court by saying that PTI was trying to stuff the Senate with 'friends of Imran Khan' against the wishes of several of its lawmakers.

The ordinance has also been challenged in the top court as violation of the Constitution.

As the Senate election has been announced, all eyes are set at the Supreme Court to decide the issue of open ballots.

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