Senate polls saga: PM wants end to menace of horse trading, ensure sanctity of vote

LAHORE:The sanctity of vote is a fundamental, democratic principle globally, which is premised on a free choice, regardless of the merits of both arguments, whether vote to be cast at the candidates’ own will or in pursuance of the party’s policy.

Unfortunately, during the last many decades, the honest vote casting did not take place in the country in various cases, as deliberated upon by the parliament, and endorsed by it from time to time.

In broad spectrum, there have been numerous challenges in the country’s polling process, and the biggest of those was how to prevent horse-trading in elections.

The horse-trading is not any new phenomenon in our politics, and the previous governments had enough time to bring about legislation to prevent the menace if they desired so. However, sadly no amendments were introduced to the Constitution for ending the menace of horse-trading once and for all.

It is good omen for the country and the democratic process in the country that the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government took practical measures to curb illegal practices in the polling process and strengthen the democratic values in the country. While ensuring transparency and merit, the party had gone against its own lawmakers, who allegedly sold out their votes, Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporter here. She said that a number of PTI lawmakers were expelled from the party for selling their votes in the 2018 Senate elections, which proved the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan. It is not only the matter of the Senate elections but the ideology of his party, which believed in fair, transparent and corruption-free polls.

Sultan Muhammad, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Minister for Law, who allegedly was part of the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) in 2017 and later joined the PTI prior to the 2018 general elections, was also asked to resign from his office, after he was seen in a video showing use of money for engineering the Senate election process in the country in 2018, she said.

After watching the video, PM Imran Khan had constituted a three-member committee to probe allegations that the PTI lawmakers were allegedly engaged in horse-trading, ahead of the Senate elections in 2018.

The committee members were included Adviser to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari and Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry.

The three-member committee is conducting a comprehensive and detailed probe into the events that took place in the near past and it will submit a complete report to the prime minister containing its recommendations.

In a related Senate elections development, candidates on 11 seats from Punjab, seven general and two seats (each) reserved for technocrats and women, have been elected unopposed after the withdrawal or rejection of nomination papers by the other contestants.

A spokesperson for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said that five seats each had gone to the PTI government and the opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), while one has been grabbed by the PTI ally PML-Q.

Those elected unopposed on seven (general) seats of the Upper House of the Parliament included Aon Abbas, Saifullah Sarwar Khan Nyazee and Ejaz Ahmad Chaudhry of the PTI while Prof Sajid Mir, Afnan-Ullah Khan and Irfan-ul-Haq Siddiqui of the PML-N and Kamil Ali Agha of the PML-Q.

Saadia Abbasi of the PML-N and Dr Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur of the PTI have been elected unopposed for the two seats reserved for women, and similarly Azam Nazeer Tarar of the PML-N and Syed Ali Zafar of the PTI are elected for the two seats reserved for ulema/ technocrats.

A notification for the senators elected unopposed would be issued after the March 3 polls in other three provinces and the federal capital, the spokesperson further informed.

It may be mentioned here that the nomination papers of PTI’s Robina Akhtar and PML-N’s Pervaiz Rasheed for general seats and PTI’s Neelam Irshad Sheikh for women seats had already been rejected during scrutiny on February 18.

Likewise, there were total 17 candidates in the run for seven general seats, of them 10 withdrew their candidature.

The candidates who withdrew their candidature included Saiful Malook Khokhar, Zahid Hamid, Saud Majeed, Umar Sarfaraz Cheema, Baleeghur Rehman, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Muhammad Khan Madni, Ijaz Hussain Minhas, Azeem-ul-Haq Minhas and Zaheer Abbas Khokhar. Their withdrawal actually paved the way for unopposed election of the seven candidates.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, during a recent media address, censured political parties included in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), for failing to take action or bring about legislation against the practice of horse-trading in the Senate elections, despite being in power for more than three decades.

The prime minister questioned the PDM parties, especially the PML-N and the PPP, about their failure in updating the electoral system or bringing about reforms despite being in the knowledge of the undemocratic and corrupt practices continuing during the Senate polls in the past.

Regrettably, these parties made money out of the practice of horse-trading, and sought to horse-trade their way to become a majority, the PM added. He also questioned that why the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party backtracked on their party manifestoes and stance on open balloting, when the same was stated clearly in their Charter of Democracy(CoD) agreement. The agreement was signed in 2006 between the PPP and PML-N to jointly take on the government of the then president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.