Senate Elections Pakistan
What is Senate?
Majlis-e-Shura, the Parliament of Pakistan, consists of the President and two Houses, known as the National Assembly (lower house) and the Senate (upper house). The Senate was constituted for the first time in 1973 under Article 50 of the Constitution of Pakistan that stipulates a bicameral parliament.
The Senate is a body that represents the provinces of the country and promotes a feeling of equality, peace and harmony, which is so essential for the growth and prosperity of a nation. Thus, the Senate, over the years, has emerged as an essential organ and a stabilizing factor of the federation in Pakistan.
After Independence, the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, elected in December 1945 in undivided India, was assigned the task of framing the Constitution of Pakistan. This Assembly passed the Objectives Resolution on 12th March 1949, laying down principles which later became substantive part of the Constitution of Pakistan. However, before it could accomplish the task of framing the constitution, the Assembly was dissolved in October 1954. Thereafter, the Governor General, convened the Second Constituent Assembly in May 1955, which framed and passed the first Constitution of Pakistan on 29th February 1956. That Constitution was promulgated on 23rd March 1956 and provided for a parliamentary form of Government with a unicameral legislature. However, from 14th August 1947 to 1st March 1956, the Government of India Act, 1935, was retained as the Constitution of Pakistan.
On October 7, 1958, Martial Law was promulgated and the Constitution abrogated. The Military Government appointed a Constitution Commission in February 1960 which framed the 1962 Constitution. That Constitution provided for a Presidential form of Government with a unicameral legislature. The 1962 Constitution was abrogated on 25th March 1969. The Civil Government, which came to power in December 1971 pursuant to 1970 elections, gave the nation an interim Constitution in the year 1972.
The 1970 Assembly framed the 1973 Constitution which was passed on 12th April and promulgated on 14th August 1973. The 1973 Constitution provides for a parliamentary form of government with a bicameral legislature, comprising the National Assembly and the Senate.
The membership of the Senate, which was originally 45, was raised to 63 in 1977 and to 87 in 1985. The membership of the Senate was again raised from 87 to 100 in 2002.
Through the 18th amendment, introduced in 2010, the strength of the Senate was raised to 104. However, after the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the strength has been decreased to 96, with effect from March 2024.
Half of the total members of senate retire every three years hence a triennial election is conducted to fill the vacant seats.
Purpose & Role
The main purpose for the creation of the Senate of Pakistan was to give equal representation to all the federating units since the membership of the National Assembly was based on the population of each province. Equal provincial membership in the Senate, thus, balances the provincial inequality in the National Assembly and dispels doubts and apprehension, if any, regarding deprivation and exploitation.
The role of the Senate is to promote national cohesion and harmony and to alleviate fears of the smaller provinces, regarding domination by any one province because of its majority, in the National Assembly.
Who can be a Senator?
To vie for a senate seat, a candidate must not be less than thirty years of age and (s)he should also be enrolled as a voter in any area in a Province, or the Federal Capital, from where (s)he seeks membership.
He must also meet other qualifications prescribed under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
Senate elections take place in accordance with Article 59 of the Constitution.
a) Each of the four Provincial Assemblies elects fourteen Senators on general seats, four women, four technocrats including Ulema (religious scholars) and one on seat reserved for non-Muslims;
b) All Members of National Assembly elect two Senators on general seats, one woman and one technocrat or Alim to represent the Federal Capital.
c) Though seventeen seats have been allocated to women, there is no bar on women to seek elections on the other seats.
Note: The aggregate of the above two categories comes to be 96. However, because the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which earlier had 8 seats in the Senate, have been merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, this time, FATA’s four designated seats will not be voted on. Hence, polling will be held for 48 senators instead of on 52 vacant seats. So, the Senate from 2021 to 2024 shall comprise 100 members.
One man, one vote, for one candidate in the general elections. But that is not how it works in the Senate elections. Voting in the upper house of the parliament can be complicated and only involves our elected representatives.
The Senate polls are held on the basis of a Single Transferable Vote System (STV), a proportional representational system first introduced in the 19th century by British mathematician Thomas Wright Hill. Later, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Malta, Scotland, Australia and Germany began to use this system to elect legislators.
The STV made its way to the subcontinent prior to independence. It was adopted in some elections of the Municipal Board and District Boards of the upper house of the provinces, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s website. However, only after 1973, it became the standard voting practice for the Senate in Pakistan.
On the day of the vote, members of the national and provincial assemblies will be given four slips of paper and they will name their candidates on the basis of priority, therefore, 1,2,3.
The maths to determine the exact quota of the vote each candidate should receive is worked out by diving the total value of votes. Take Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are 124 electors and each vote is assigned the value of 100.
124 x 100 = 1,2400
Divide this by the number of vacant seats, 7 + 1 =8.
The total is now 1,550. Then, add 1 to the final answer, which makes it 1,551. Now remove the last two digits and we are left with 15, add another one to it and we will have 16. Which means that each candidate in KP must get 16 votes.
Using the same formula, 171 votes in National Assembly will be required for a Senator to be elected from Islamabad, 46 for Punjab, 21 for Sindh and 8 for Balochistan.
When a candidate gets the required priority votes, his remaining Priority 1 votes will be transferred to the candidate on 2nd priority. A process that continues until the required number of Senators is elected.
Term of Membership
The Senate is a permanent legislative body which symbolizes a process of continuity in the national affairs. The term of its members is six years. However, one-half of its members retire after every three years.
Note: A casual vacancy in the Senate, caused by resignation, death, incapacitation, disqualification or removal of a member, is filled through election by the respective electoral college and the member so elected holds office for the un-expired term of the member whose vacancy (s)he has filled.
Chairman and Deputy Chairman
After the Senate has been duly constituted, at its first meeting, it elects, from amongst its members, a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman. Whenever the office of the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman becomes vacant, the Senate elects another member as Chairman or as the case may be, the Deputy Chairman.
Term of office of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman is three years. In absence of the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman acts as Chairman. The Chairman or the Deputy Chairman can be removed from the office by means of a resolution moved by a member under Article 61 read with paragraph ( c ) of clause (7) of Article 53. The Chairman or, as the case may be, the Deputy Chairman cannot preside the meeting of the Senate in which a resolution for his removal from office is being considered. At the commencement of each session, the Chairman nominates, from amongst its members, in an order of precedence a panel of not more than three presiding officers. In absence of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, a member of the panel present, having precedence, presides over the sitting of the Senate.
Summoning and Prorogation of the Senate
The President, from time to time, summons either House or both the Houses of Parliament under Article 54(1) of the Constitution. However, the Chairman, Senate can also, under Article 54(3), summon the Senate on a requisition of one-fourth of the total membership of the House. In either case the Secretary Senate causes a notification to be published in the Gazette stating date, time and place of the meeting and also cause it to be issued to each member. Its announcement over the radio/TV and in the Press is also made. Likewise, a notification with regard to prorogation of the Senate is also published in the Gazette.
Each session of the Senate starts from the date of commencement of its first sitting and concludes when the House is prorogued by the President or the Chairman, as the case may be.
One-fourth of the total membership of the Senate must be there to maintain quorum. Under Article 55(2) of the Constitution, if at any time during a sitting of the Senate, the attention of the Chairman is drawn to the fact that less than one-fourth of the total membership of the Senate is present, the Chairman suspends the business and causes the bells to be rung for five minutes. But if no quorum is available even when the bells stop ringing, the Chairman adjourns the sitting.