- Govt holding urgent talks with Opp parties for consensus on constitutional amendment before Senate elections on March 5
- Political leaders, including Zardari, expected to discuss amendment to curb horse-trading in APC expected on Friday
- Legal committee’s amendment draft suggests that candidate and voter’s names be placed on ballot paper instead of using ‘show of hands’
The legal committee formed over the issue of eliminating horse-trading presented the first draft of an amendment to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, while the government is considering calling an All Parties Conference (APC) on Friday to mull a 22nd amendment to the Constitution.
The draft states that following reservations by political parties over the “show of hands” suggestion, voting will continue to take place on ballot papers as per the 1973 Constitution but will not be secret. However, in order for the process to be free and transparent, the ballot would contain the name of the candidate as well as the person casting the vote.
The draft also states that party membership of a person voting for a non-party candidate would be suspended.
Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to contact political leaders personally over the issue of horse-trading in the upcoming Senate elections.
“Contact with political parties should be positive and Senate elections should be fair at all costs,” the premier said, adding that all steps would be taken for the respect of institutions and to strengthen democracy.
The two committees formed by the government are holding talks with different opposition parties to build consensus on constitutional amendment to stop horse-trading in Senate elections.
The prime minister is also expected to convene a meeting of the leaders of political parties in the Parliament to take them into confidence.
RAILWAYS MINISTER WOOS OPPOSITION:
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq held meetings with Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman and had in-depth discussion on horse-trading. He also had telephone contacts with Asfandyar Wail Khan, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.
The leaders expressed concern over the show of hands or division and said this system was “technically not feasible” and suggested that as provided in the Constitution, voters be divided into groups for elections of senators, and first and second priority of the candidates be included in the ballot paper. However, the leaders appreciated the prime minister’s decision to bring an end to horse-trading and suggested that the PM convene an APC.
Talking to reporters after a meeting with the railways minister, Fazl said his party welcomes consultations on the key issue as consultation is the spirit of democracy. He said a proposal has been mooted for constitutional amendment which would be looked into from legal aspect. He said it would be discussed with the party leaders and for this purpose he has sought time from the government.
However, he refused to support the 22nd constitutional amendment saying that his party was not consulted on the 21st Amendment. He made it clear that until their reservations on the 21st Amendment were addressed, they would not support the 22nd amendment.
Rafiq said Fazl’s reservations would be conveyed to the prime minister. He said the Senate elections would not be held through “show of hands” but they are discussing the option of open ballot paper.
The minister said that the prime minister would convene a meeting of the political leaders in a day or two on the Senate elections and hoped that the issue would be resolved amicably.
RASHID CALLS FOR SUPPORT:
In the meanwhile, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, addressing a press conference, said that government wanted to strengthen democracy by putting an end to horse-trading in politics. He said that it was Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s second attempt to curb horse-trading and that first attempt was made in 1997.
He called upon Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to return to Parliament to help the government amend the Constitution.
“Imran Khan will benefit from the constitutional amendment as more reports regarding horse-trading are coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where PTI is in power,” he said.
Speaking on the issue, Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah suggested that the government convene an APC at the earliest to discuss the issue of horse-trading. He also said that his party had raised the issue of upcoming polls in Gilgit Baltistan with the government ministers.
Political pundits say that after PTI chairman’s support to the prime minister’s decision to check horse-trading, there has been significant improvement in political atmosphere and tension has been reduced.
While back channels of the two parties are working, it is expected that the prime minister would speak to Imran Khan in the next few days. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already made telephonic contact with PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and the two are expected to meet today (Thursday).