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Senate elections will be held as per the announced schedule: ECP

23 February, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday decided that the upcoming Senate elections will be held as per the announced schedule, while the PML-N ticket-holders will be allowed to run as independent candidates in the Senate elections as well as other bye-polls in the country.

The decision was taken in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict announced on Wednesday, which removed Nawaz Sharif from his post as PML-N head and nullified all official party decisions he took following the July 28, 2017, judgment in the Panama Papers case.

“As a result of the declaration, all steps taken, orders passed, directions given and documents issued by Respondent No 4 [Nawaz Sharif] as party head after his disqualification on 28.07.2017 are also declared to have never been taken, passed, given or issued in the eyes of the law. The Election Commission of Pakistan is accordingly directed to remove the name of Respondent No 4 (Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif) as president/party head of Respondent No 3 (PML-N) from all relevant record(s),” the verdict had read.

Currently, there are multiple elections scheduled to take place in the country, including election to fill 50 per cent vacant seats in the Senate, a bye-election to fill a seat in Senate which fell vacant after disqualification of PML-N leader Nehal Hashmi, besides bye-elections on two provincial assembly seats in Sargodha and Ghotki.

The tickets issued by Nawaz Sharif to the PML-N candidates as party head have already been submitted before the respective returning officers (RO). An uncertainty had surrounded the whole process after the recent decision of the Supreme Court.

The ECP on Thursday deliberated over at least four options for implementation of the apex court judgment, which included postponement of Senate elections as well as bye-elections; elections be held on time by excluding the candidates nominated by the PML-N; extension in the time limit to allow PML-N candidates to produce fresh party tickets; and allowing PML-N candidates to contest the election as independent candidates.

The ECP, however, opted for the last option while keeping in mind the continuity of the democratic process in the country and protection of the rights of the candidates running for the polls. “After having gone through the preceding options and not finding them feasible, the fourth option of treating the affected contestants (PML-N’s nominees) as independent candidates has been finalised,” the order passed by the ECP reads.

Earlier in the day, PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq along with Anusha Rehman and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry called on the chief election commissioner to discuss re-issue of tickets to the party candidates. He told reporters outside the ECP office that as chairman of the party he held the authority to issue party tickets. He informed the reporters that he had submitted an authority letter and other relevant documents to the ECP. However, the request was regretted by the election commission and later conveyed to the visiting PML-N leaders via an official letter.

According to the ‘Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business in Senate, 2012’, an independent elected member of the Upper House can join either the treasury or the opposition benches within seven days of taking oath. The member will have to inform in writing the secretary of his decision who will notify it immediately. Alternatively, a group of not less than five senators can also choose to form their own group.

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