Horse-trading of senator candidates is a practice that has embedded itself deeply in the Senate elections. The corruption of the practice has come under fire time and time again, without any tangible solutions of how to prevent it. Some of the senators proposed the replacement of secret ballot with open voting while others suggested that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be empowered by amending the law to investigate the cases of sale and purchase of votes and punish those involved in the ‘deep-rooted’ corrupt practice.

The only way to avoid this practice is to elect members of the Senate through direct elections. The US model of Senate can be successfully replicated in Pakistan. After every three years, elections for half of the Senate seats should take place through direct voting by the public.

This will result in electing the true representatives of the people. Senate polls between the tenure of a sitting government would act as mid-term polls. The serving government would be compelled to serve people and produce results, as it has to face direct elections after every three years. This would also help improve governance in the country and prevent bringing into the house those people who are not genuine representatives of the public. Of course, the upper house shall never agree to this.

Another important issue recently discussed in the House was the senator’s demand for fiscal powers for the upper house. They demanded the senators should be given uplift funds similar to the financial packages given to MNAs. They should not be given control over fiscal policy. 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 and not equal representation. The senate is to keep a check and balance on the lower house, which it has carried out to the best of its ability and should be commended. But to ask for fiscal powers serves against the purpose of the Senate, which is not responsible for carrying out development in their constituencies; that is the MNA’s job.

To grant the Senate more powers can create a disruptive power struggle between the two houses, especially seeing the incumbency power and lack of direct election of the senators. Like a traditional bi-cameral system, the National Assembly is more important, larger and more representative. It should not be allowed to become redundant.