Following the dismissal of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's petition against the rejection of seven votes during the election of Senate chairman by Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has vowed that his party “would knock every door and raise the issue of electoral vote theft at every forum”.
In his response to the IHC's decision, Bilawal expressed the hope that Gilani, the candidate of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – would eventually become the Senate chairman as he was the "genuinely and legally elected chairman".
The PPP chief, in a statement, said that the "theft" of Senate chairman elections through "foul play" by a presiding officer was a litmus test for the system as it may get replicated in the future thus undermining the very credibility of the democratic institutions.
Bilawal said his party believed in the supremacy of the Constitution, which bars calling into question the proceedings of the parliament or ruling of the speaker or the chairman, in Senate's case. "There is no question on the supremacy of parliament and constitution," he added.
He also said that PPP also respected the independence of judiciary and fought for it in the past but Gilani had challenged the decision of a presiding officer who rejected seven votes.
On March 12, the ruling PTI-backed candidates grabbed the top slots of the Senate in a “controversial contest” marred by the discovery of “spy cameras” in the polling booths.
In the polls, incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was re-elected. He had defeated Gilani, a joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – an opposition parties’ alliance.
Ninety-eight senators had exercised their right to vote, out of which seven votes – most of which cast in favour of Gilani, were rejected. Sanjrani who had received 48 votes as opposed to 42 votes of Gilani was later declared the winner by the presiding officer, Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah.
Earlier, the IHC judgement stated that the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) is the supreme legislative organ of the state and it represents the people of Pakistan and maintaining its dignity, respect and independence is of paramount importance and constitutional duty of other branches of the state.
Also read: PML-N, PPP at loggerheads over Senate slot
"It is the highest forum for, inter alia, resolving national issues and political disputes. The parliamentary privileges, powers and immunities have been expressly incorporated in the Constitution," the ruling stated.
The court noted that the petitioner asserted that, as a joint candidate of PDM, he has the support of the majority of the worthy members of the Senate, adding that it is obvious that the majority cannot only remove current Senate chairman but also elect Gilani to the office of the chairman.
"If that is the case, then a democratic and adequate constitutional remedy is available to the Petitioner (Gilani). Adopting such a course of remedy would affirm the support of the majority of the worthy members of the Senate and, simultaneously, enhance the dignity and independence of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).”
The order further stated that the court is satisfied that an adequate constitutional remedy is indeed available for establishing that the seven worthy senators had actually intended to cast their votes in favour of Gilani.
"In such an eventuality the judicial branch ought to exercise restraint, notwithstanding the bar contained under Article 69 of the Constitution."
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