Tuesday, March 3, 2015

SENATE ELECTIONS, POLITICIANS & HORSE TRADING!





Although Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf(PTI) Chairman Imran Khan supports this change, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the JamiatUlema-e-Islam F (JUI-F) have expressed their concerns. JUI-F chiefMaulanaFazlur Rehman has not committed to supporting the bill. He has voiced his reservations about a 22nd amendment when his concerns about the 21st amendment, which he believes singles out religious groups as the proponents of terror in Pakistan, have not been addressed. PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman has also opposed the shift to open ballots and Leader of the Opposition SyedKhursheed Shah has even suggested that the elections should be held by direct voting, allowing the people of the provinces to choose their representatives to prevent manipulation, monetary or other. Rehman and Shah both asserted that once the election schedule has been announced, it is completely unprecedented to change the existing electoral procedure. The PM’s committees’ drive to change the way the constitution terms senators as “elected” representatives to “chosen” ones attempts to rule out the possibility of direct elections.



At this point in the talks, it is not certain whether asserting the clarity of the indirect nature of the elections and switching to open ballots or changing the electoral policy to direct elections is the right direction for the Senate selection process to take. Since the elections are scheduled to be held next week, there is hardly sufficient time for all the parties to achieve a consensus regarding the best way in which to ensure transparency. The short timeline for any policy changes before the elections, which are set to be held on March 5, begs the question why the PML-N government is so adamant in pushing this hastily drafted constitutional amendment through. PML-N MPAs have shown resentment towards the party’s extremely centralised control and the fact that their opinions and concerns are not duly heard by the party leaders, particularly in Balochistan but also in Punjab. PTI representatives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwaon the other hand have formed a 14-member dissident group. This internal discord makes both parties susceptible to the manipulation of their estranged MPAs and explains the PML-N’s thrust to institute an electoral procedural shift and PTI’s uncharacteristic support of the ruling party. However, it will prove difficult for the PML-N leaders to gather enough support for their proposed constitutional amendment, whether they succeed in holding an APC or not, in just nine days before the elections. Nevertheless, these talks should be encouraged and if constitutional reform is to take place, it must broach the problems that have plagued the election process in the past and could cause concern in the future. The purpose of the Senate, with equal representation from each province, is to balance out the inordinate strength of Punjab. Therefore, reforms should be geared towards ensuring fair and transparent representation of the provinces in the Senate and further strengthening it in the long run. 



Courtesy Daily Times

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