ISLAMABAD: The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, Babar Awan, on Thursday said that a bill comprising three amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan would be presented in the National Assembly next week ahead of the forthcoming Senate elections.

Speaking at a presser along with Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz, he said the constitutional amendment bill proposes allowing voting not to be secret.

“To date, no one ever talked about legislation to make the Senate elections free and transparent…for the first time in history of the country, a constitutional package for reforms has been prepared,” he added.

He said that the bill would introduce three amendments and one of which would be to Article 63-1C of the Constitution, adding, “we are using the words ‘open vote’ instead of ‘single transferable vote’.

The adviser said that ahead of Senate elections, “rates” have been fixed, but the government would bring an end to the “buying and selling” of votes in the upcoming Senate elections.

Referring to the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on May 14, 2006 in London, Awan said that it was agreed in the CoD that the vote in Senate polls should be open and recognisable.

“In order to stop horse trading, the opposition parties especially the PPP and the PML-N should unite and consider the amendment as a national agenda,” he added.

Without mentioning any party, he said that two parties under the banner of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had openly said they would topple the Balochistan government.

“But I would like to tell them that governments can be toppled only through a no-confidence motion under a constitutional procedure,” he contended.

About a report of Transparency International which says that corruption has increased manifold during the PTI government in the country, he contended: “Transparency International report is another proof of the PML-N's corruption”.

Speaking on the occasion, Faraz recalled how the PTI government had expelled several members of the provincial assembly (MPAs) from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after it emerged they had “sold” their votes during the 2018 Senate elections.

"We removed 20 sitting MPAs from our government in KP because there was a doubt that they used their votes incorrectly and some transactions happened that were unacceptable. Only the PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan could have removed sitting MPAs. We have not seen such an example in the past or in the present,” he added. He said the government was ready to "make all required legal efforts" to ensure that the 2021 Senate elections were free and transparent.

He termed it an opportunity for the opposition parties to cooperate and make the efforts successful.

The information minister said the concept of open ballot was also present in the CoD, and said it was time for its implementation.

Awan said the premier stressed during the latest meeting that he was "not concerned whether [the PTI's] seats in the government increase or decrease," instead his concern was accountability”.

Sharing details of the bill the government plans to introduce in parliament at the start of next week, the PM's aide said the first amendment would seek to replace 'single transferable vote' in Article 59(2) of the Constitution with 'open vote'.

Thus, the Senate voting process would no longer remain secret, he added.

Second, Article 63(1)(c), which is related to disqualifications for membership of parliament, would be amended to allow overseas Pakistanis and Pakistanis with dual nationalities to contest elections.

"Overseas Pakistanis work across oceans and their earnings are Pakistan's biggest assets but nothing has been done for them. After this, all overseas Pakistanis, despite dual nationality, will be able to stand for elections," he said.

However, they would be required to renounce their citizenship of the foreign country before taking the oath of office. If the person loses the election, this condition will not be applicable, he clarified.

Awan congratulated expatriate Pakistanis, saying the government was going to the parliament next week to open the way for them.

Third, he said, the government would seek to amend Article 226 of the Constitution to include the word “Senate” in it so elections could be held through an open ballot.

Awan said the constitutional amendment bill was a "test case" for political parties and would identify their stance on holding transparent elections.

When the bill is moved in the parliament, he added, it would be crystal clear “who wants to buy votes and does not as the opposition parties would not support it”.

Talking about the presidential reference regarding Senate elections, which is being heard in the Supreme Court, he said that the parties who had run away from it have actually run away from their agenda and charter.

“They have run away only to either make money or throw money to win the elections,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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