By News Desk
ISLAMABAD: The government will introduce a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament next week for open voting in the Senate elections and to give dual nationals the right to contest elections, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said on Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference along with information minister Shibli Faraz, Awan said the election reforms package was prepared after a series of meetings chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“This will be the first constitutional reforms package since 1985 to ensure that Senate elections are held in a free, fair and transparent manner,” he said. He added that past Senate elections were “made controversial with purchase of votes and corruption”.
He said the proposed constitutional amendments will be a “test case for the opposition”, which in the past had supported the idea of open ballots in Parliament. “The introduction of a reforms package in Parliament will make it clear who in the opposition supports fair elections and wants to stop the buying of votes and horse-trading and who will be doing otherwise,” he added.
The adviser said Prime Minister Khan had made it clear that regardless of whether his party gets more or less votes he would pursue electoral reforms in the Senate and the path of accountability. Awan said a roadmap had been given to the political parties in Parliament to stop alleged horse-trading and the purchasing of votes in elections.
“Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto signed the Charter of Democracy in May 2006 and one of its points was that indirect elections should be open and identifiable votes should be cast in it,” he said, holding up a page.
The adviser said the reforms “are a national agenda” and nobody would want to get Senators elected through the use of “money or corruption”. He then claimed opposition parties did not support the presidential reference for transparent elections in the Senate.
According to the proposed amendment in Article 59(2) of the Constitution, an open vote will be cast instead of the single transferable vote in the Senate election, he explained. While through another amendment to the Article 63(1)(c), dual nationals will be able to contest the upcoming Senate elections and elections of Parliament and provincial assemblies in the future.
In case a dual national wins an election, he would have to give a clear proof before taking oath as a legislator that he has renounced his foreign citizenship. If he loses the election, the dual national will have no need to renounce his foreign citizenship, he added.
He was hopeful that many dual nationals will want to take part in the Senate elections. He urged the opposition parties to support the government in undertaking electoral reforms in the Parliament. He also said talks will continue with the opposition in Parliament on matters of national importance.