This article was published in Dawn on August 03, 2019 and is available at the following link
WHILE the aftershocks of the Senate’s no-trust vote of Aug 1 are still being felt, it seems that some good may also have come of the exercise as a number of important and pertinent questions are being asked and reforms being suggested. The failure of the no-trust move by the opposition, which commanded a comfortable majority of 64 to 36, has led to a debate about political culture, parliamentary norms, election procedures and the state of political parties which hopefully will contribute towards enhancing public awareness about our political system and addressing some of the weaknesses of the latter.
A common refrain on the outcome of the no-trust vote against the Senate chairman was that there has been blatant buying and selling of the votes on the resolution motion. This complaint has probably been prompted by the fact that the no-trust resolution could receive only 50 votes in its favour compared to a combined strength of 64 legislators belonging to the political parties that moved the motion. While the use of pressure tactics and offering tempting rewards to legislators can’t be entirely ruled out because we have seen both the carrot and the stick repeatedly applied in similar situations in the past, it is extremely unfair to accuse all senators, who chose to vote against party direction, of horse-trading.
This blame game is unfair because the Constitution of Pakistan grants the legislators independence of choice through the system of secret ballot. This grant of independence of choice is deliberate and not the result of mere chance because in some other important elections and votes of confidence or no-confidence, not only has voting been made transparent and open, legislators are also liable to attract the charge of defection as per Article 63-A of the Constitution, which if proved, may lead to disqualification of the legislator.
It is unfair to accuse all senators, who chose to vote against party direction, of horse-trading.
The election of prime minister and chief ministers and votes of confidence for and of no-confidence against them are notable examples of the open-ballot scenarios prescribed in the Constitution. This also means that legislators have been given the independence to vote above all pressures and considerations including their political affiliation. Political parties should, therefore, either come to terms with this independence of choice, which the Constitution grants to legislators, or they should amend the Constitution.