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ECP okays Electoral Reforms Bill; PTI loses claim for symbol of scale to JI
 
 
Mumtaz Alvi & Waseem Abbasi
Friday, January 25, 2013
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will acquire administrative powers over the executive after the announcement of the election schedule as even it would have the power to transfer a chief secretary, inspector general of police and others as per the Electoral Reforms Bill (ERB), which it approved on Wednesday.

 

An ECP official told The News though already the electoral body enjoyed administrative powers under Article 218 (3) of the Constitution, the latest recommendations in the proposed legislation would further make the things clear for all and sundry.

 

He maintained that after the issuance of the election schedule, the Election Commission would assume administrative powers to change or transfer government officials and hence the government machinery would be under it.

 

Meanwhile, the Election Commission announced allotting the election symbol of ‘scale’ (tarazoo) to Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) after separately hearing the religio-political party and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). The decision in this connection was reserved that was announced on Thursday much to the jubilation of JI workers, who distributed sweets to celebrate the decision.

 

In its contentions, JI pleaded since it had contested the 1970 general elections with scale as its election symbol, it should permanently be allotted to it while PTI said that they had contested the election in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2011 with scale as its symbol, it was its right to retain it for future electoral bouts. PTI’s top leader Hamid Khan also contended that the symbol scale also matched the nomenclature of his party.

 

However, the Election Commission decided the matter in JI favour and asked PTI to opt for any other symbol from those yet to be allotted to political parties. Meanwhile, the Election Commission issued a statement that it had been reported in a section of press that in the proposed Electoral Reforms Bill, the ECP approved that “winners in elections must bag 50 percent of the total cast votes.”

 

The ECP clarified that no such proposal was approved/included in the proposed Electoral Reforms Bill as it related to runner-up electoral system only.

 

Furthermore, some TV channels reported that the ECP proposed to the government to dissolve all the assemblies before February 15, 2013 which is also totally baseless and incorrect, it said.

 

Meanwhile, Minister for Law and Justice Farooq H Naek along with Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah held a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim in his office to discuss the issue of banning new jobs.

 

After holding talks, Farooq H Naek told media that appointments would be made in accordance with the laid down procedure and law.

 

He said that the CEC was apprised that new appointments had been made in different departments during last seven to eight months.

 

He said they held detailed meeting with the CEC about the notification that placed a ban on the new appointments.

 

He reminded that they had imposed ban on the appointments in 2011 but allowed some ministries to make such appointments in view of the shortage of staff.

 

The CEC was told that freezing of funds at this point would hinder ongoing development projects and push up the cost of completion, he added.

 

Farooq H Naek said the CEC listened to their point of view and asked them to send these reservations in writing.

 

Expressing his optimism he said the ECP would take a decision in this regard on basis of equal justice and maintained that they would accept it.

 

Waseem Abbasi

 

The draft Electoral Reform Bill, approved by the Election Commission of Pakistan, grants extraordinary powers to the returning officers who will now be fully empowered to demand any documents or information from the government regarding a candidate for the purpose of scrutiny.

 

Previously, only a candidate was allowed to raise objections about another candidate but under the draft law, a copy of which is available with ‘The News’, the returning officers can ask the government departments to provide relevant information about any candidate within a specified period so that they can ascertain the qualification of any candidate.

 

“The Returning Officer may, for the purpose of scrutiny, require any person, agency or authority to produce any document, record or information and any such person, agency or authority shall provide the requisite document, record or information within the time specified by the Returning Officer,” the bill states.

 

The returning officers will be provided a draft list of polling stations for each constituency, however, they will be empowered to make changes in that list as they may deem necessary.

 

“The returning officer will publish the new list within a period of fifteen days inviting objections from the electors of that constituency to be filed with the District Returning Officer within a period of ten days of the publication of draft list,” the draft law states.

 

Under the new law, the commission will appoint teams to monitor election campaign of the candidates and report the violations of the code of conduct by the candidates to the District Returning Officer.

 

The commission would be empowered to initiate and finalise disciplinary action against any official for any act of misconduct.

 

The draft law also increase the number of votes required for a candidate to avoid confiscation of his/her security deposit. The candidates are now required to obtain 25 per cent of total votes cast in their constituency to get their security deposits refunded.

 

Under the electoral reform bill, the polling agents must have their votes registered at the same polling stations where they are posted.