Govt bid to bring amendment against horse trading falls flat

PPP and JUI-F refuse to support ‘show of hands’ proposal for Senate elections g Nawaz urges both parties to rethink their stance by today1425082394-5802

ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML N on Friday failed to garner consensus amongst allies and opposition parties to bring in the 22nd Constitutional Amendment, which would have allowed open ballot, or “show of hand”, in the upcoming Senate elections.

This despite the fact that the opposition and government allies are convinced that the feared horse trading in the Senate elections would bring a bad name to parliament. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his part tried hard, but was not successful in convincing the leadership of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) to support the proposed constitutional amendment. He, however, urged both the PPP and JUI-F to rethink their stance by today (Saturday), as he plans to meet some allied and opposition parliamentary leaders in a likely follow-up meeting.

Officials, however, believe that the draft law, preliminary discussed in the meeting on Friday, will most likely be presented in parliament on Monday or Tuesday in case back-channel diplomacy with opposition and allies works. The draft suggests that elections to the Senate will be held through open voting instead of the secret ballot, the current practice. The proposal also carries suggestion to devise a mechanism to track votes of legislators to establish that the pattern follows party lines, a mechanism being opposed by some political parties.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, called upon the parliamentary leaders to play their role in stopping horse trading before the Senate elections. “We have a joint obligation to check this corrupt practice of buying votes with money and ensure sanctity of the Upper House,” the prime minister said in a meeting with parliamentary leaders, at the PM’s House. Talking to the participants, he said that the Senate, being the Upper House of parliament, is sacred and it is binding upon all political parties to preserve and enhance its sanctity, making the process of its election fully transparent.

However, PPP is said to have opposed the open balloting proposal in the meeting as former PPP prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf described maligning all the members of national and provincial assemblies in “selling and buying of votes” as unfortunate, adding that the PPP not only wanted transparent elections of Senate, but wanted to come up with comprehensive electoral reforms related to national and provincial assemblies. He said that a political consensus should be achieved first and should employ the options that would address all the concerns regarding horse trading in elections of Upper House.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rahman reportedly opposed the new constitutional amendment for secret balloting on the pretext his party was already unhappy by the 21st Constitutional Amendment that established military courts. “We were bitten by the 21st Constitutional Amendment. How would you expect us to extend the favour on the new constitutional amendment?” Fazal asked.

Meanwhile, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar said that his party will support the the amendment, while PTI leader Dr Arif Alvi said that party chairman, Imran Khan, had already welcomed the government’s move. Also, Jamaat-e-Islami’s parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah and Federal Minister for Textile, Abbas Khan Afridi said that they will support the PML N move in this regard.

The prime minister said that it is a matter of concern for all the democratic forces in the country that votes of parliamentarians are being bought and sold. He urged the political parties to put an end to horse trading and save the Senate from corruption, so that democracy could flourish in the country. He said that in the past too parliamentary parties’ leaders were invited to deliberate upon matters of national significance. The prime minister strongly condemned horse trading and termed it “an act of disgrace” for all parliamentarians. He said some people, even without any party affiliation, wanted to contest the Senate election on the basis of money.

“This is not about buying votes, but about buying a parliamentarian’s conscience,” he said. Nawaz referred to media reports about the use of money before the Senate election and said all political parties need to work together to stop this practice.