ISLAMABAD: Leaders of an 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have opposed the government's move to hold Senate elections through an "open and identifiable ballot".
The government on Saturday promulgated a presidential ordinance for the upcoming Senate polls by making amendments to the Election Act, 2017.
Signed by President Arif Alvi, the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 said it was issued when the National Assembly and Senate were not in session, and the president believed it was "necessary to take immediate action."
Voicing his concerns over the move, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said that the amendment could only be brought about through the parliament.
He added that the government's move was against the “sanctity” of the secret ballot in the Senate elections.
“Federal government is horrified by the Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) decision to contest Senate elections,” Bilawal said during a press conference on Saturday.
The PDM had announced recently that it would jointly contest the Senate polls.
PDM president, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, had also claimed that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party "did not trust its own members since it was planning to field candidates who were not even popular within their own party".
Meanwhile, in a tweet on Sunday, Ahsan Iqbal, secretary-general of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) said that the PTI was "putting the country into a constitutional mess" and in a total state of "panic" over the issue.
“What a joke ordinance subject to approval of #SupremeCourt. When govt introduced constitution amendment bill in National Assembly for this purpose it admitted that this requires an amendment in the constitution. How can it issue an ordinance for the same now? Total mess n panic,” Iqbal’s tweet read.
What a joke ordinance subject to approval of #SupremeCourt. When govt introduced constitution amendment bill in National Assembly for this purpose it admitted that this requires an amendment in the constitution. How can it issue an ordinance for the same now? Total mess n panic https://t.co/DfBdSpr6WY
— Ahsan Iqbal (@betterpakistan) February 6, 2021
The ordinance, which came "into force at once" and will be extended "to the whole of Pakistan," said that the Election Commission would be required to show the ballot of individual members to the heads of their parties upon request.
The PTI administration introduced a constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly to hold Senate elections through an open ballot.
However, it was rejected by the opposition, and the session was prorogued after a lot of mayhem in the lower house of parliament.
Last December, President Alvi invoked the Supreme Court's advisory jurisdiction and sought its opinion on the subject.
The presidential ordinance issued on Saturday maintained that it was contingent on the apex court's verdict on the matter.
More than 1,100 lawmakers from four provincial assemblies and national assembly will elect half of the new members to the 104-seat Senate in March for six-year terms.
In the upper house of the parliament, all provinces have an equal number of seats.