The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday opposed the government’s plan to hold Senate elections through open ballot without an amendment in the constitution. In its reply submitted to the Supreme Court on a presidential reference filed by the government to seek opinion of the apex court about holding Senate elections through open ballot, the ECP ruled out the possibility of holding Senate polls through open ballot and said that the Senate elections will be held as per constitution of 1973. “Article 59, 219, 224 (3) & (5) of the Constitution provide for elections to the Senate and, ‘Election of the Senate is election under the Constitution’ for the purposes of Article 226 of the Constitution”, the ECP said in its concise statement submitted through Sajeel Shehryar Swati. “Most ordinary and natural meaning elucidated by Article 226 is that elections under the constitution are those elections that are held by or under the authority of the constitution. Article 226 provides only two exceptions i.e. election to the office of prime minister and chief minister (which on true construction refers to only one exception, the leader of the House),” the reply stated. “As per rules of statutory interpretation, when exceptions to a general rule have been specified in the rule, those are the only exceptions and no other exception can be implied or read into the provision,” it added. A five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi, is hearing the presidential reference. The reference states that there is national consensus amongst all major political parties, jurists and civil society that the electoral process should be cleansed of the pervasive practice of vote-buying in Senate elections. The desire to stop vote-buying through open ballot has manifested itself from time to time in the shape of political manifestos of major political parties, the Charter of Democracy executed in 2006 by two former prime ministers and respective heads of their political parties. The elections will be held for 52 seats as many members of the 104-member Senate are due to retire on March 11.