SC adjourns reference seeking opinion on Senate election till Monday

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned hearing of the presidential reference seeking an opinion on open balloting for the upcoming Senate elections till Monday.

A five-member SC larger bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi heard the reference.

During the course of proceedings, the counsel for the Election Commission submitted a copy of the code of conduct for voters.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Raza Rabbani, while starting arguments in his personal capacity, said the main purpose of Senate’s creation was federalism. Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had also raised the point of federalism in his 14-points, he added.

He said smaller political parties with four provincial seats were also represented in the Senate. The idea of a single transferable vote was introduced to give smaller political parties a chance to have their opinion in the federation, he added.

He said a party having three or four members in the Balochistan Assembly had two senators. “We have to keep in mind the composition and purpose of the Senate, ” he added.

He said majority of the people was represented in the National Assembly, and the Federation of Pakistan in the Senate. It could be seen in the House of Lords and the House of Commons (of Britain). The House of Commons had public representation, he added.

He said the court must look for a solution to the problem in the Constitution.

A bill, he said, could be rejected by the Senate after it was passed by the National Assembly. The Senate had to decide on the bill within 90 days.

He said the purpose of the Senate was to ensure equal representation of all the provinces. In a parliamentary system, the two Houses of Parliament were never run by consensus, he added.

He said it was not mandatory that a party, who formed a government in the federation, also had a majority in the provinces.

He said a coalition of opposition parties could also change the proportion of seats in the Senate. “I will give detailed arguments on the point of proportional representation, ” he added.

Justice Ijaz said proportional representation was mentioned in Articles 51 and 59 of the Constitution. Even the alliance of political parties did not make a difference on proportional representation. If a party wanted to make a coalition, it should do openly, he added.

Raza Rabbani said the court’s interpretation regarding proportional representation would be ideal, but not on political issues.

He said as there was an alliance between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q in Punjab, the former had given a seat to the later in the Senate election.

Justice Ijaz said the representation of a political party in the Senate should be proportional to the province.

Justice Bandial said many times the political parties of one province also made adjustments with those of other provinces.

He asked as to why it was important to keep secret even if there was an inter-provincial alliance?

Raza Rabbani replied that there was a difference between horse-trading and forging a political alliance. Political alliances were usually secret. Horse-trading could happen if an individual wanted to become a member of the Senate, he added.

“We have to understand the minds of legislators, the proportional representation of political parties is in the minds of legislators, there are three different systems under the system of proportional representation, ” he said. “Each article deals with a separate system, where party representation is referred to as a single transferable vote, and a single transferable vote is entitled to mainstream representation.”

He said the president asked the question in the reference as whether secret ballot applied to the Senate. The government had given the impression that the case fell under the jurisdiction of Article 184/3.