ISLAMABAD: The controversy which triggered over seven rejected votes of the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), in the Senate chairman election on Friday has led the PDM to decide to challenge the ruling of Presiding Officer Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah in the Supreme Court (SC).
The PDM is also mulling a proposal to investigate how Mirza Afridi, the government-backed candidate for the slot of Senate deputy chairman, bagged six additional votes as Sadiq Sanjrani could only secure 48 votes.
It is worth mentioning here that Sanjrani secured 48 votes against Yousaf Raza Gillani’s 42 to be re-elected as the Senate chairman while Afridi bagged 54 votes against Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri’s 44 votes.
It appears that the votes rejected in the chairman’s elections were considered in government’s favour in deputy chairman’s election.
Opposition leaders also held a joint press conference outside Parliament House in which Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the manner in which Gillani was defeated despite the opposition’s majority in the upper house of parliament is reprehensible.
Ashraf expressed hope that Gillani would win in the court. He said that the government had used every available tactic to secure its so-called win, adding that if Sanjrani, the recently re-elected Senate chairman, was a lover of democracy, then he would resign.
“We got 49 votes but Yousaf Raza Gillani was defeated after seven votes were rejected,” said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal on the occasion.
Iqbal also read out the SC’s earlier rulings on the matter during the press conference and said that the court ruled that the voter’s intention has to be seen.
“Stamping the name box means that the voter has the right intent and [aims to vote for that candidate],” he said.
Separately, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the biased and illegal actions of the government have been laid out before the people, maintaining that the votes were rejected incorrectly.
“Those votes were cast properly, legally, constitutionally, but seven senators of the Senate of Pakistan were purposefully disenfranchised and Gillani sahab, despite winning, has still not sat on that seat in the Senate,” said the PPP chairman.
“A vote is ‘cast’ when the intention of the voter becomes clear. Seven votes were invalidly rejected [but] if these seven votes are added, then Yousaf Raza Gillani has won. Yousaf Raza Gillani has become the chairman of the Senate.”
He declared that the PDM had won both the Senate and the NA, lamenting the fact that cameras were installed in the polling booths.
Noting that the PDM “exposed the system and defeated” the PTI, Bilawal announced that the anti-government alliance had decided to go to court after consultations with PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and other opposition leaders.
“You do not have the right to reject our vote if it has been stamped inside the box and on the candidate’s name,” Senator Farooq H Naik said earlier while speaking on a point of order at the floor of the upper house after the election results for Sanjrani were announced.
“The rejected votes that you are talking about have been stamped within the boxes on the candidates’ name. Why should the should voter suffer due to the mistake of the secretariat which mislead our voters? Naik asked the presiding officer.
Qasim Gillani, the son of the former premier, vowed that the PDM parties would approach the election tribunal and challenge the rejection of votes.
In this regard, former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Kunwar Dilshad told media that a decision related to the matter would be taken by the SC of Pakistan and not ECP or its tribunal.
Former secretary of ECP, Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, said that Senate election is held under the Senate Rules and not under the Election Act.
“Under Elections law, the stamp is to be put on election symbol. But in this specific case, there is no symbol on the ballot paper and only a name and empty space has been placed. There was also no clear instruction available too. In my view, this matter can be challenged in the Supreme Court as the apex court is the ultimate forum for justice,” he said.
Tahir Hanfi, former additional secretary of National Assembly, told Pakistan Today that Presiding Officer Senator Shah whose ruling has been challenged, is a seasoned campaigner and has a long parliamentary experience. He said that Shah has served as Sindh Assembly speaker and Sindh chief minister too. He added that the opposition which is the aggrieved party in this matter can move the apex court.
“Under Article 60 or 69, the House proceedings cannot be challenged in a court of law. I believe that the problem area is not the proceedings and rather the irregularity according to the opposition is the issue that is permissible to be raised in a court of law. If the opposition wants to challenge the point of law in the Supreme Court, the Senate Secretariat would become a party to the matter as all record is with the Secretariat including the instructions issued for polling arrangements,” he further said.