Tuesday November 30, 2021

Parliament is supreme not ECP, says Fawad

He was briefing the media about the decisions made by the federal cabinet in a meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan

June 23, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Tuesday said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was an administrative body, mandated only to implement the laws, enacted by the Parliament.

He was briefing the media about the decisions made by the federal cabinet in a meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan here. Fawad was asked about the Election Commission’s concerns about several proposed amendments under the head of electoral reforms, and the letters written by it to the ministries concerned about it.

The minister emphasised that the ECP could not raise questions on the Parliament, that the laws being passed by it were constitutional or unconstitutional, as it was the right of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to interpret any piece of legislation.

He said the apex court would decide what was in contravention with the Constitution or the law. “And, if someone is interested in politics, then the ECP is not the platform. He should form a political party and do politics.

“And if someone will write letters like this, he should also look into one’s own act, as it may also be a breach of the privilege of the Parliament. “And the Parliament’s privilege committee can summon anyone and ask how he can breach Parliament's privilege,” he argued.

The minister was confident that the poll reforms laws would be implemented and the ECP would take measures with reference to the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in by-elections as part of preparations for the general election.

He said the electoral body was represented in the President’s committee and all steps were taken in their presence. He added the Election Commission should play its role as per the system, given to it by the Parliament and political parties.

To another question, Fawad said what would be the mode of elections was the job of the Parliament and political leadership and not the job of any bureaucrat to tell how elections would be conducted. He said that all those having attained the age of 18 and having ID cards in their possession need to be registered, as they would be automatically registered as voters in the modern system as per their choice on permanent address or otherwise.

The minister noted that the opposition’s planned all parties conference (APC) was a conspiracy to weaken the Parliament and added the government was ready to move along with political parties’ parliamentary leaders, having representation in the Parliament on electoral reforms. He said the government's proposed 49 electoral reforms were neither a sacred sahifa nor those were unchangeable. He said the government was ready for talks with the parliamentary parties to discuss electoral and judicial reforms. However, he asserted that to him Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were not stakeholders to the parliamentary system, and they could resist reforms and want the status quo to continue.

He said the federal cabinet approved the import of an additional one million metric tonnes of wheat in view of the country's future demand and ensuring ample supply despite having a bumper/ record crop of 27.3 metric tons. But he noted that if the rapid increase in population continued with the present ratio, then even bumper crops would be insufficient. Fawad said that 3 million metric tonnes of wheat had been allowed to be imported earlier.

About the voting right to overseas Pakistanis, the minister made it clear, “in any case, we want to involve overseas Pakistanis in the voting process. We don't know why the PMLN and the PPP are so afraid of overseas Pakistanis. Maybe they think they are all Imran Khan's voters”.

He said overseas Pakistanis had trust in the leadership of Imran Khan and not in Zardari, Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif. The minister claimed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) would also form government after being elected in the upcoming general election.

Fawad claimed that the issue of electoral reform was also stalled as these parties did not want to give the right to vote to 8.5 million overseas Pakistanis. He said the main reason for the growth of our economy at the rate of 4% today was the remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis.

He said the cabinet also approved a proposal to utilise the government assets and state lands. In due course of time, more assets would be added to the list for timely issuance of domestic and international sukuk [bonds] for promotion of Islamic banking. He said if the majority in Pakistan thinks it was bad to borrow at interest, then the Islamic system had the advantage that interest-free loans could be taken.

The minister said the agenda of submitting a report of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on loan waivers by banks in the past or losses incurred by the banks in terms of loans had been postponed because the names of those people who had got their loans written off were not mentioned in the report. He said the public should know who these people were.

The minister said the cabinet approved the appointment of Aslam Khan, one of the non-executive members of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), as the new chairman of the national airline.

Likewise, he said the matter of transfer of land of Carlton Hotel Karachi had also been postponed for a week and consideration of applications for issuance of prohibited arms licences had also been postponed so that the interior ministry might complete the rules in that regard.

The minister said that Pakistanis residing in Luxembourg have been allowed to have dual citizenship. Moreover, approval of legislation relating to relinquishment of possession of government lands has been given.

He noted that the cabinet had approved a very important law i.e. Public Property Removal of Encroachment Bill 2021, which would curb illegal occupation of government lands. Fawad said the law also proposes penalties and fines for illegally occupying government lands and a special appellate tribunal should be set up to decide people's petitions within 30 days.