Senate votes to be held by secret ballot, Supreme Court

ISLAMABAD: As political parties are involved in intensive lobbying for the forthcoming Senate elections, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, by a 4-1 majority, that elections to the Senate are held “under the Constitution” and thus cannot be carried out by an open referendum.

However, the court also held that the security of the ballot was not “pure” and could be diluted by realistic factors, in particular those related to the exercise by the Pakistan Election Commission (ECP) of its mandate to hold free and fair elections without any unethical practices.

The apex court suggested that it was up to the ECP to determine to what degree the vote should remain confidential.

The five-member apex court—headed by Pakistani Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Judges Mushir Alam, Umar Ata Bandial, Ijazul Ahsan and Yahya Afridi—announced a reserved opinion in Supreme Court No. 1.

The Supreme Court also specified that “all the executive authority of the Federation and the Provinces are obliged to support the Commissioner and the Election Commission of Pakistan in the execution of their duties.”

The Election Commission must also take all available steps, including “the use of technology to serve a sacred constitutional obligation to ensure that elections are held freely, reasonably, fairly and in compliance with the law and that fraudulent practices are avoided,” the Supreme Court said.

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