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September 4, 2018

Senate session: Opposition demands commission to probe election ‘wrongs’


September 4, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Opposition lawmakers in the Senate on Monday strongly demanded constitution of a parliamentary commission to investigate what exactly had gone wrong in the 2018 general election.

There were calls also from the opposition benches for the conduct of general election, rejecting the July 25 election as an exercise to select Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan as prime minister and install his government.

Legislators from the treasury and opposition benches took part actively in the debate on an admitted motion, moved by PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi, as one of the senators of this party Asad Junejo called for security log audit to find out whether or not some alteration or tempering was done. He also questioned why the Election Commission of Pakistan could not keep the result transmission system.

Winding up the debate, Leader of the House in Senator Syed Shibli Faraz said that the mission of Prime Minister Imran Khan was fulfilled, as he gave awareness to the nation about the poll rigging, which had destroyed the whole electoral system of the country.

Responding to demands for formation of a parliamentary commission, he said that the electoral reforms committee should be reconstituted. He also emphasised that both the Speaker National Assembly and Chairman Senate should look into the matter; whether a parliamentary commission could be formed or not and what could be its terms of reference, if it was doable.

Earlier, during the debate, opposition senators blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the failure of RTS system, which ultimately resulted in the poll results controversy

On the contrary, PTI legislators said that there should be a forensic audit of the RTS system and alleged that was willfully collapsed by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) chairman, to benefit the PML-N. Senator Javed Abbasi said that not only the opposition but also unsuccessful candidates of PTI had also talked about rigging. He noted in 117 constituencies, 12-15 per cent form-45 was signed by presiding officers. He insisted how was RTS shutdown or it was done on the behest of someone should be probed.

Former chairman Senate Senator Mian Raza Rabbani of PPPP rose to allege that the some quarters never wanted a free and fair election in the country and this had been harmful to the federation. He cautioned that the time had come that all the stakeholders must identify and decide that which governance system suited the country.

Some powerful elements never accepted the people’s rule and supremacy of Parliament. And this was the reason the Constitution was kept in abeyance from time to time. The Article 58 2(b) was used by them to weaken parliament and when it was abolished, they brought in their puppets and now we must ensure supremacy of Parliament,” he emphasised.

Rabbani continued that by introducing e-voting for overseas Pakistanis, the stage was now being set for rigging in next general elections. He wondered how you could ensure voting rights to e-voting facility to 7.6 million overseas Pakistanis when you simply could not fox the RTS system.

To this, deputy chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwala, chairing the proceedings, asked Rabbani whether there was a possibility to review The Elections Act 2017, Rabbani responded in affirmative.

PTI Senator Muhammad Azam Khan Swati questioned the appointment of Nadra chairman Usman Mubeen, saying he was handpicked by the former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan by violating the merit in order to ensure rigging for the PML-N in July 25 general election. Swati reiterated, “I demand of my own party government to hold a probe into RTS system, and grill chairman Nadra, as the RTS system was under the control of Nadra and the ECP. The parliamentary commission won’t be able to serve any purpose so forensic audit is the only solution”.

Senator Abdul Rehman Malik of PPPP, who heads the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, which is deeply involved in the poll-related issues, said that RTS system was shut down intentionally. He called upon the government to constitute a technical committee to probe shutdown of election results software on the polling day.

During his speech, he also played an audio tape on his cell phone on the floor of the House in which an unknown official could be clearly heard directing concerned authorities to compile the poll results manually as RTS system had shut down. Forget RTS. He also was heard saying that the ECP’s written instructions would also be issued shortly.

Senator Malik while pointing out several loopholes in the poll system also noted that some 4500 presiding officers had no phone facility on the polling day and hence had no role in the elections. He also mentioned that polling agents were pushed out while results were given on plain papers. He insisted a private company of repute must probe RTS failure.

Malik said that Senate had entrusted the Standing Committee on Interior with looking after the elections proceedings and as the country’s interior minister Imran Khan was obliged to assist the committee in its probe.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, PML-N’s parliamentary leader came down hard on the ruling PTI and alleged it was not the elected government rather it was imposed on the people of Pakistan due to which there was no reason to call it a democratically elected government.

The PTI Senators Faisal Javed Khan, Chaudhry Sarwar and Mohsin Aziz strongly reacted to accusations made against their party and said that PML-N must not forget its past, as it was that very political party, which had refused to reopen only four constituencies back in 2013.

“The ECP was installed by you, and all other institutions were under your control, but even then you lost. You cry out foul because you were given a humiliating defeat by the PTI, as this time around umpire was impartial that did not suit you [PML-N] it has a history of playing with the support of an umpire,” retorted Faisal.

Senator Pervaiz Rashid of PML-N said that there should be re-elections in the country, as enough had been written about July 25 elections’ controversy, which was in no way good for the image of the country.

In his first speech, he said the prime minister should have announced a parliamentary panel to probe the rigging. He added the PML-N still demanded that parliamentary commission with full administrative and economic powers should be formed to look into the rigging allegations.

PkMAP Senators Usman Kakar and Azam Musakhail charged that July 25 elections were the worst in the world, as rigging was done before July 25 on the polling day and afterwards as well. They pointed out early this year, Balochistan government was sent packing to pave the way for selected people and media was subjected to unannounced censorship while delimitation of constituencies was illegal.

They continued the Faizabad sit-in was presented as a hanging sword on the heads of those, who would not listen to the powers be, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were jailed and ROs and DROs were appointed on personal liking. “Our voters in Balochistan were at the mercy of killers and smugglers and hence the Pakhtoon leadership was by design kept outside the legislatures,” they alleged and called for free and fair elections afresh.

Senators Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and Tahir Bizenjo charged that Pakistan was today in the worst era of martial law with media facing censorship. He said today two media outlets were banned in some localities. They said the National Party and PkMAP were punished for their commitment to democracy.

Tahir Bizenjo said that there was a need for a new charter of democracy and result-oriented dialogue among the state institutions and political parties and strict implementation of the 18th amendment.

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