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Chief Justice Expresses Disappointment over PPP and PML-N for Deviating from Open Ballot agreement for Senate Polls

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By Our Web Desk

ISLAMABAD– Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has expressed disappointment over the PPP and the PML-N diverging from an agreement signed between them, the Charter of Democracy, which calls for an end to secret balloting in Senate elections. 

A five-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi was hearing the presidential reference seeking an opinion on open balloting for the upcoming Senate elections.

During the hearing, the Advocate General of Punjab Ahmad Awais agreed with Attorney-General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan’s point of view that parliamentarians were bound by their party’s code of discipline and in case of any violation, action can be taken against them.

Responding to a query of the chief justice, the advocate general said a lawmaker can be disqualified for either buying or selling votes but not for voting against the party’s policy.

After the Punjab advocate general had concluded his arguments, the Advocate General of Sindh Sultan Talib ud Din presented his arguments, stating that everyone has heard about horse-trading but no one has ever produced any evidence to back it up.

“The court should steer clear of questions of a political nature,” he said, adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan should instead be allowed to fulfil its responsibilities.

“The Supreme Court can only answer questions that are raised,” said the Attorney General of Sindh, adding that it has an “advisory” role.

At this, the chief justice responded by saying that the Constitution is a political document and when the court interprets it, then it is carrying out a political task.

The Advocate General for Sindh said that there is no proof that introducing open balloting would eliminate horse-trading.

“We can not say whether open balloting will eliminate horse-trading but it is disappointing that the PPP and the PML-N have gone back on their earlier agreement,” responded the chief justice.

“Both parties agreed to bring an end to the secret balloting method in the Charter of Democracy but now they are not implementing it,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed said.

At this, the Attorney General of Sindh said that without amending Article 226, the wishes of the federal government cannot be fulfilled.

The advocate generals of Islamabad, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab all supported the arguments presented by the Attorney-General for Pakistan.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that Article 63-A does not apply to the Senate elections whereas Article 59 does not mention secret balloting.

The hearing was postponed till Friday.