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July 20, 2017

MPs’ body finalises Election Bill after two years

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July 20, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms Wednesday adopted Election Bill, 2017, for submission to Parliament after 2 years of its formation.

“The report finalised by the parliamentary committee would be signed on Friday,” said the Chairman, Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms and Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Wednesday after chairing the meeting of the committee along with Sub-committee Chairman and Law Minister Zahid Hamid. Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party, Sitara Ayaz of the ANP, Naeema Kishwar of the JUI-F and Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-e-Islami also attended the meeting.

However, the PTI members -- Dr Arif Alivi, Shafqat Mehmood and Dr Shireen Mazari -- staged walked out from the meeting for not accepting their demands of bio-metric system, verification of voters in next general elections, restructuring of the Election Commission of Pakistan, voting rights to overseas Pakistanis and changing the criteria of appointment of the caretaker government.

The 25th meeting of the parliamentary committee was convened under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Finance Senator Ishaq Dar at the Parliament House on Wednesday.

The sub-committee, headed by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, presented its final report during the meeting. It undertook thorough review of the nine election related laws, with their subset of related rules. The report and its recommendations will subsequently form the basis for the “Draft Election Bill 2017” to be laid in Parliament.

Talking to newsmen after the meeting, Parliamentary Committee Chairman and Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar said the draft election bill would help extensively in avoiding confusions and complications in elections 2018. 

Replying to a question, the finance minister said electoral reforms were aimed at ensuring fair and transparent elections. After the signing ceremony on Friday, Senator Ishaq Dar said Minister for Law and Convener of the Sub-Committee Zahid Hamid would brief media about the new bill that would bring together nine different laws as per international best practices. “The election rules have also been finalised with the cooperation of the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he said.

The finance minister thanked members of the committee, which included members of all the political parties represented in Parliament. He said that the hard work of all the members had made it possible to complete this gigantic task. He said that the Draft Election Bill, 2017, had been prepared through extensive feedback from all political parties and the civil society.

The committee and sub-committee have held 113 meetings in total and discussed all election related laws to prepare a comprehensive draft election bill. The minister said that members of the committee representing other political parties also lauded the achievement of the electoral reforms body for finalising the bill.

Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party said that the adoption of the Election Bill, 2017, was a great achievement after the 18th Amendment. “All the political parties agreed that betters laws be made for ensuring the free, fair and transparent elections in the country,” he added.

Parliamentary leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Sahibzada Tariqullah, said though they had some reservations about the issues of biometric voting and voting right to overseas Pakistanis as well as condition of 10 percent votes of women in the constituency, they were 95 percent satisfied.

Meanwhile, talking to media after boycotting the meeting, PTI members Shafqat Mehmood and Dr Arif Alvi, accused the government of deliberately not conducting the test of biometric system despite having the system.

Shafqat Mehmood said the committee was formed in 2014 and made all out efforts for bringing the reforms in the electoral system. “But our proposals were not entertained in the committee, so we have no other way but to boycott the meeting,” he said and added the government agreed to the proposal for granting the right to vote to the overseas Pakistani. He said the government was not ready for the bio-metric system for the verification of the voters.

Shafqat Mehmood said the PTI had proposed bringing the new system for the appointment of the caretaker government and suggested that instead of the consultation between the prime minister and opposition, Parliament be involved in the consultation process for the appointment of the caretaker government, but the proposal was rejected. He said the PTI’s another proposal for restructuring the Election Commission of Pakistan was also rejected.

“We forwarded the proposal of restructuring the Election Commission as it had failed to hold free, fair and transparent elections in the country,” he said.

PTI leader Shireen Mazari said that the walkout was staged as the government did not respond to the party’s demands. “We will announce our next course of action after the party’s consultative session at the party chief’s residence at Banigala,” she said.