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ISLAMABAD: In its written response to the PTI’s proposals for resolving the current political impasse, the PML-N says if the judicial commission’s final report proves rigging in the May 2013 general election, then the National Assembly would be dissolved and a caretaker cabinet appointed in accordance with the Constitution and in consultation with all concerned, including the PTI.
The ruling PML-N has rejected a proposal to convert the proceedings of the projected Judicial Commission (JC) to probe the irregularities in the May 2013 polls as ‘summary in nature’ since the issues before the Judicial Commission are very serious, important and complicated, and the evidence of witnesses in respect of such issues requires to be properly recorded and examined.
The PML-N rejoinder has been approved by all the parliamentary groups leaders of the two houses supporting the Constitution and democracy.The endorsement of the groups leaders has given credence to the rejoinder. According to the document, the PML-N has already proposed the constitution of a judicial commission to investigate the allegations of massive rigging in the 2013 polls.
The PML-N proposes constitution of the said commission through an act of parliament after consensus with other political parties in both the Houses and not through an ordinance. It
says the PML-N agrees in principle to the constitution of the proposed Joint Investigation Team (JIT) under the JC.
The PML-N agrees in principle to the proposals regarding the balanced composition of the JIT and that the head of the JIT may be appointed after consultation with all concerned. The JC may be required to submit its report containing its findings/conclusions within 30 days or within such time as the JC may determine.
The report shall be a public document. The sources revealed the rejoinder document to The News and it said the PML-N had already proposed that the JC should comprise three sitting judges of the Supreme
The judges are to be nominated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP). The PML-N would be pleased if the chief justice decides to head the commission personally. The JC will have all the powers of a civil and criminal court under the Code of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 respectively.
As regards the admissibility of evidence etc, the provisions of Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 shall be applicable. To avoid controversy, it is proposed that the JC may be empowered to decide its own procedure.
The rejoinder suggested that needless to state, the JC shall perform its functions in a just, fair and transparent manner. It says without casting any aspersions on the present incumbents, the PML-N agrees that non-controversial, non-partisan professionals shall be appointed as the heads of Nadra, FIA and secretary ECP after consultations with all concerned.
It has to be ensured that the terms of reference (TORs) and powers of the JC are not such so as to convert it into a super “Election Tribunal” to determine “rigging and manipulation” in individual constituencies in violation of the provisions of Article 225. It is, therefore, proposed that the TORs of the JC should be as follows:- “Was there a systematic and concerted plan or conspiracy to manipulate the GE 2013 for or against any political party in connivance with the Election Commission of Pakistan, former members of the judiciary, returning officers, federal and provincial caretaker governments or any other person?”
The findings of the commission shall be binding and enforceable. As mentioned in the PTI’s document, important and complicated issues before the JC having serious constitutional, legal and political implications cannot be determined in summary proceedings.
A sample of 30 out of 272 NA constituencies i.e. 11% cannot be extrapolated to determine the final outcome of the GE, 2013. The JC’s functions/powers should not empower it to act as a super Election Tribunal in violation of letter and spirit of Article 225. Its function should be confined to determination of the TOR.
The JC’s conclusions and findings regarding the TOR have to be based on the evidence on record. No conclusion or finding can be drawn/given on “prima facie” satisfaction or on the basis of “any evidence”.
Sufficient and credible evidence has to be produced before the JC to prove the allegations as reflected in the TOR beyond reasonable doubt.
“Rigging” has not been defined in the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), 1976. The term is generally taken to mean extensive corrupt and illegal practices [as defined in sections 78 and 83 of RoPA, 1976] which have materially affected the result of an election.
“Rigging” cannot be redefined retrospectively, as the PTI is attempting to do through its proposal, in order to prove its allegations. It may be noted that the non-utilisation or defective manufacture of magnetic ink, even if established, resulting in inability of Nadra to verify thumb impressions, cannot ipso facto lead to the presumption that these have resulted in corrupt or illegal practices in the elections.
It may also be noted that the PML-N had no concern whatsoever with the manufacture, supply or use of magnetic ink.
The rejoinder says the consequences of a final report from the JC containing an affirmative determination of the TOR shall be: (i) Dissolution of the National Assembly in terms of Article 58(1); and (ii) appointment of a caretaker cabinet in accordance with the Constitution, in consultation with all concerned, including PTI. [It is incorrect that PTI has been deprived of its legitimate right to be a constitutional consultee. As PTI sits on the opposition benches (assuming resignations are withdrawn), it can convey its views through the Leader of the Opposition.] (iii) Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan can only be removed in the manner prescribed in Article 209. Hence unless the members resign voluntarily, the appointment of new members can only be made after relevant constitutional provisions are amended pursuant to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms. (iv) The Prime Minister being President of PML-N, an agreement between PML(N) and PTI will be binding upon the parties. The appropriate announcement will be made in parliament.
The Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms has been given a period of three months to complete its work by resolutions passed by both Houses of Parliament. As it was notified on 25th July, 2014, 40 days have already elapsed. The committee may be requested to expedite its work. The PML-N agrees to the suggestion that an experts sub-committee may be constituted to assist the PCER in preparation of drafts, etc. Request may be made to PCER accordingly.
As mentioned above, request may be made to PCER to expedite its work. As repeatedly indicated to the PTI delegation and publicly declared at all levels, the question of resignation of the prime minister simply does not arise. The PML-N rejects outright the arguments of PTI in this regard, being without any constitutional, legal, factual or moral basis. Moreover, this demand on the part of the PTI casts serious doubts about the independence of the judges of Supreme Court who will be members of the JC, which is unfortunate.
The JC may be fully empowered to pass necessary directions regarding all issues, etc relating to determination of the TOR. There is no need for establishing a Supreme Monitoring Council. The PML-N is of the view that a code of conduct may be formulated in consultation with all political parties and implemented immediately.
The federal government and the Government of Punjab have placed advertisements in the media to inform the general public about completion of significant infrastructure projects. By no standard have these advertisements been excessive in number. It may be mentioned here that the Government of KPK has also placed many such advertisements in the media.
The federal government and the Government of Punjab are fully aware of, and are duly complying with, rules governing the use of so-called secret funds. The PTI should ensure that such rules are followed by the Government of KPK also.
All agreed terms shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Constitution and the law. At the outset, the rejoinder said that the general elections (GE) held on May 11, 2013 are considered by independent observers, national and international, to be the fairest of all the general elections held in Pakistan thus far.
Unfortunately, the PTI is attempting to make them controversial by belatedly refusing to accept the people’s mandate in favour of the PML-N. This is despite the fact that out of 410 election petitions filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) relating to the GE, 2013 [326 of which have been decided], only 58 petitions [39 of which have been decided] were filed by PTI members (Fafen report dated August, 2014 on “Political Parties’ with Election Tribunals).
Moreover, the election results were initially accepted by PTI, whose MNAs and MPAs, after taking oath, took active part in proceedings of their respective assemblies till the recent submission of their resignations, as per their party decision. Paradoxically, the PTI continues to maintain that the elections in the province of KPK, where it has formed the government, were perfectly fair. That said, the vote-bank of the PTI, as evident in the official figures of the Election Commission of Pakistan, is acknowledged and respected.
Total votes received by PML-N) were 14,874,104 and not 14, 847,104; PPPP received 15.23% of the popular vote and not 15.32%. The assertions particularly regarding public perception about complaints of illegalities and rigging in the GE 2013 are incorrect, baseless and unjustified and hence vehemently refuted.
The allegation that the PML-N has “usurped the popular mandate through unfair means” is not just incorrect but ludicrous as the PML-N was clearly not in a position to perform the alleged acts. Indeed, the very mention of such an allegation in a proposal for a political solution is counter-productive. The PTI’s painstaking efforts to deny that its demands are unconstitutional are clearly over-stretched.
There are hardly any similarities between the present and the 1977 political environments. In 1977, immediately after the general elections to the National Assembly, there was a nationwide boycott of elections to the provincial assemblies by all major political parties of the opposition (PNA) and a nationwide movement was launched demanding fresh elections, based on allegations of rigging.
In the present situation, all major political parties, including the PTI, had accepted the election results and their members had taken oath as MNAs/MPAs. It is only recently that the PTI and its smaller allies have started demanding the resignation of prime minister who is supported by all the other opposition parties, as reflected in the unanimous resolutions recently passed by the National Assembly and Senate.
Moreover, the demands are coercive in nature, based as they are on “dharnas”/bundhs in the sensitive Red Zone of Islamabad, with threats to occupy important state buildings, including parliament and the Prime Minister’s House.
The PML-N is of the view that the solution can only be within the framework of the Constitution and the law. The PTI’s charges of massive rigging in the 2013 polls are mere allegations. They have neither undermined the integrity of the official results nor thrown the PML-N mandate into doubt. Indeed, the vast majority of the people of Pakistan, as well as the international community, hold the contrary view, as do both houses of parliament.
The PML-N fully recognises the need for electoral reforms. This is reflected in the prime minister’s letters to the speaker, National Assembly and the chairman Senate, which led to the constitution of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER).