Pakistan Senate elections can't be held in February, Election Commission tells Imran Khan

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Islamabad [Pakistan], December 21 (ANI): Senate elections cannot be held in February as half of its members will be retiring on March 11, said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday, thus, quashing Prime Minister Imran Khan's decision to hold early elections.

The News International reported the ECP saying in its five clarifications, "Half of the Senate members will retire on March 11, 2021 after completing their six-year term. According to the Constitution, elections cannot be held 30 days in advance on seats that are vacant after the expiry of the term of the members of the Senate, the ECP said, quoting Article 224(3) of the Constitution. This means elections on vacant Senate seats cannot be held before February 10, 2021. The last four to five Senate elections have been held in the first week of March. This time too, the ECP will announce the date for the Senate elections at a suitable time, according to the law and Constitution, through an election programme. Conducting the Senate elections is the constitutional and legal responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan under articles 218 (3) and 224 (3) of the Constitution and Section 107 of the Election Act, 2017."

As the early Senate polls are expected to result in the loss of seats for Opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which currently controls the Upper House, the decision was taken during a meeting of the federal Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, reported Dawn.

In a 104-member Senate, elections will be held for 52 seats as many members of the Upper House will be retiring on March 11. The federal government invoked the idea of early elections in order to change the power structure in the Senate.

Currently, the Senate is decisively controlled by the constituent parties of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

A source disclosed to Dawn that the proposal for the early Senate election was put forth by the Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary. The government also invoked advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on open voting for the polls.

Generally, Senate elections are done through secret balloting, but PM Imran Khan desired to hold the election by open ballot or show of hands.

The information minister said that the government mulled over getting the bill ratified through several means -- either through a constitutional amendment, executive order, or the election commission.

After pondering over the matter, the government decided to move the apex court regarding the matter, reported Dawn.

Meanwhile, PDM has demanded PM Imran Khan-led government quit by January 31 or face intensified movements by opposition parties such as the long march to Islamabad. (ANI)