NATIONAL ASSEMBLY Opposition whistles, chants slogans as NA discusses Senate voting...

Opposition whistles, chants slogans as NA discusses Senate voting bill

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Loud whistling interrupted the PTI MNAs as they tried to argue in favour of the 26th constitutional amendment bill that seeks to change the way votes are cast during Senate elections.

Law Minister Farogh Naseem had introduced the bill in the assembly on Wednesday. The discussion on the bill resumed on Thursday in a session chaired by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri.

Related: ECP to announce Senate elections schedule on February 11

The members of the opposition, who don’t want the open ballot during the upcoming Senate elections, surrounded the speaker’s dice and chanted slogans.

Some even held posters saying “Mr Deputy Speaker. Give opposition the mic.”

The opposition members also created a ruckus as Federal Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan took the floor of the assembly. Khan wasn’t able to complete his speech because of the noise.

Opposition showing its true face: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi commented on the behaviour of the opposition members. “They talk about the sanctity of Parliament and look at the way they have been behaving.” They have shown their true faces to the nation.

The government is taking steps to finish corrupt practices in the country, but these people want them to continue, he remarked.

“You can’t expect people who become a part of the Senate through horse-trading to bring more transparency and accountability in the country,” Qureshi said. These people are clearly only interested in making money.

“Do you care so much about politics that you have forgotten about our democratic values?”

He said that the government had two ways to go about changing the voting system.

  • The government submitted a reference in the Supreme Court and asked about the procedure for Senate elections. We have asked the court for legal advice.
  • We have introduced this bill in Parliament even though we don’t have a 2/3rd majority. We have moved the bill to show the true faces of the people who claim to be custodians of the ‘charter of democracy’.

Senate elections

The controversy surrounding the Senate elections started when on December 15, the PTI government decided to hold the elections in February, instead of March. Following this, a debate was stirred in the cabinet regarding whether the government had the constitutional right to change the election date.

The federal government also decided to hold the Senate election through a show of hands. The decision was made during a meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

On December 22 the Election Commission clarified that Senate elections 2021 will not be held before February 10.

Various statements were issued over the Senate elections and certain opinions were expressed over the authority of the ECP, which created ambiguity, a statement by the ECP stated.

“Till now, the commission had issued no statement, but now it feels there is a need to provide legal and constitutional clarity over the matter.”

The commission said half the Senate members will retire on March 11, 2021 after completing their term. It pointed out that under Article 224(3) of the Constitution, the elections “shall be held not earlier than 30 days immediately preceding the day on which the vacancies are due to occur”.

Senate elections are held every three years and only the commission has the authority to organise them. The process is, however, spread over phases and takes roughly a month to conclude.



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