Saturday January 28, 2023

Govt-backed bills pass in Parliament, allowing use of EVMs, voting rights to overseas Pakistanis

Government passes bill related to Indian spy; Shahbaz Sharif terms EVMs as "evil and vicious machines"

By Web Desk
November 17, 2021

Prime Minister Imran Khan (left) at the Parliament during the joint sitting of the Parliament on November 17, 2021. — Twitter/NAofPakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan (left) at the Parliament during the joint sitting of the Parliament on November 17, 2021. — Twitter/NAofPakistan

ISLAMABAD: The PTI-led government-backed bills on Wednesday smoothly sailed through the Parliament's joint sitting amid strong protests by the Opposition lawmakers.  

The government successfully passed amendments to the Elections Act, 2017, allowing the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in general elections.

Voting on the amendments was earlier deferred — after strong protest by the Opposition — at Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan's request, but the government, after a while put it to vote again.

Following the passing of the bills, the Opposition staged a walkout, saying that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was not paying heed to their reservations regarding the government possessing fewer than the required numbers to get the bills passed.

According to the orders of the day shared on the National Assembly website, 60 items are on the agenda. The session is currently underway with the Opposition members back in the House ahead of a speech by the prime minister.

Some bills passed:

- The State Bank of Pakistan Banking Services Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021

- The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Bill, 2021

- The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021

- The Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021

- The Anti Rape (lnvestigation and Trial) Bill, 2021

- The Hyderabad Institute for Technical and Management Sciences Bill, 2021

Bill to give Indian spy right to review, reconsideration passed

The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Bill, 2021, that allows the right to review and reconsideration to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was also passed in the Parliament.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says that the government of India initiated proceedings against Pakistan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), concerning alleged violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963 ”in the matter of detention and trial of an Indian national, Commander Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav”, who had been sentenced to death by the Military Court in Pakistan in April 2017.

The ICJ gave its judgment on July 17, 2019, wherein it observed that “Pakistan is under an obligation to provide by means of its own choosing effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav, so as to ensure that full weight is given to the effect of the violation of the rights set forth in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, taking account of paragraphs 139, 145 and 146 of this judgment”.

Ruckus; speaker hands over chair to Senate chairman

The Opposition resorted to a strong protest after the government bulldozed the bills, with the Opposition and treasury benches coming face-to-face and a scuffle breaking out.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman slammed the speaker for bulldozing the legislation, saying today is a "black day" in parliamentary history.

Meanwhile, the speaker decided he would no longer be chairing the proceedings after the passage of important legislation. In his stead, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani is now leading the process.

EVMs are 'evil and vicious machines'

Earlier in the session, as PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif addressed the house, he called electronic voting machines "evil and vicious machines".

The government wants to bulldoze bills, which is "illegal" and against parliamentary traditions, the Opposition leader said.

He said that a joint meeting was announced at 10pm, and regretted that the meeting was postponed.

Shahbaz referred to a letter sent to him by the NA speaker.

"I have received your letter. We have carefully considered your letter and given you the full answer. I commend the Opposition members for not coming under government pressure," he told the speaker.

Shahbaz also referred to a letter written by him expressing his grievances over the hurry in passing the bills without a consensus.

Shahbaz said that the government was not being sincere in creating consensus on electoral reforms.

Govt wants to wipe out darkness of the past: FM 

In his response to Shahbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that EVMs were not actually evil and vicious and that they were being introduced to "bury evil and vicious designs".

He called the day "historic", saying that Parliament will pass laws to make the electoral process "clean and transparent".

"Shahbaz said that the government wanted to introduce a black law. Absolutely not, the government wants to wipe away the darkness of the past," FM Qureshi said.

The minister insisted that the government did not want to bulldoze legislation, and said that they had consulted Opposition members so that their reservations could be incorporated into the bills. "You didn't pay attention."

'Respect your own chair, position': Bilawal tells speaker

Addressing Speaker Qaiser, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto started his speech by requesting him to "respect his own chair", "respect his own position" and "respect the House".

He reminded the speaker that he is the custodian of the National Assembly of Pakistan and had agreed in writing with the Opposition that whatever legislation is brought in, will be done with consensus.

He said that a united Opposition was standing before the House today.

"If we were all legislating together, the next election would have been transparent," Bilawal said.

Speaking about the EVM, he said even the Election Commission of Pakistan has rejected it, adding that ECP had raised 37 serious objections over the machine.

He said the government is making the next election controversial and gave an ultimatum that they will not accept the next election if the bill for EVMs is passed.

Bilawal said they will stand by the ECP. "As long as the ECP has reservations, we have reservations," Bilawal said.

Bilawal concluded his speech with a repetition of his request to the speaker to "please, respect your chair and position".

Every player tries to do better than opponent: PM

Ahead of today’s joint session of Parliament, PM Imran Khan said that every player tries to do better than their opponent.

Talking to journalists at Parliament House, PM Imran Khan said that when a player walks out to the field, he is ready for everything.

Referring to the prime minister’s marathon huddles before the joint session, when a journalist asked a question about the reason behind the meetings and whether he was worried, PM Imran replied, "Who is holding meetings?”