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ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Affairs Adviser Babar Awan, on Monday, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised overseas Pakistanis to “include them in power” in Pakistan. During a press conference in Islamabad alongside Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib, Awan said that Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif wants Pakistanis abroad to be deprived of their basic right to vote.

The opposition leader’s suggestion, which is against the decision of the Supreme Court, is insulting, Awan said. Shehbaz suggested that five to seven seats be allocated in the National Assembly and two seats in the Senate to overseas Pakistanis.

He had also said that overseas Pakistanis should come to the country to cast their votes during elections. Awan said Shehbaz should not look for shortcuts and should speak up in the Parliament. The government wants to do all legislation through the parliament and considers the parliament as supreme, Awan said, insisting that the doors of dialogue between the government and the opposition are open.

Shehbaz has refused to accept the supremacy of the parliament twice in the last two weeks, said Awan, adding that the opposition has proposed a “fraud” plan regarding overseas Pakistanis. He again highlighted that Shehbaz’s proposal is against the decision of the Supreme Court.

The apex court says that the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis already exists in the law and to not deprive overseas Pakistanis of this right, he said. The adviser said articles 17, 19 and 106(2) of the Constitution all gave overseas Pakistanis the right to vote and it was their fundamental right which “cannot be ended because of Shehbaz Sharif’s recommendation”.

Awan said Shehbaz should not insult the Constitution of Pakistan. “If the whole parliament wants together to deprive them (the overseas Pakistanis) of their rights, Article 8 of the Constitution prohibits it,” he said. Awan said whatever discussion needed to be done on electoral reforms should take place in the parliament and advised the opposition not to look for “alternate roads”.

The adviser shared that parliamentary leaders would be briefed by agencies regarding the environment being created on Pakistan’s border because of the withdrawal of the United States troops from Afghanistan.

He said that while the opposition parties had initially criticised the budget “without reading it”, when the Budget 2021-2022 was presented on the floor of the National Assembly, no objections were raised.

Instead, he said, opposition parties raised cut motions on all institutions that deal with accountability, financial wrongdoing, corruption and kickbacks. He asked the opposition to discuss electoral reforms in the Parliament, which is an appropriate forum. Awan also said that the opposition objected to the budget 2021-22 “without reading it”.

He invited the opposition parties to sit with the government for a discussion on judicial reforms. Awan said that after the judgements in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cases, he has now reached a “deadend”.

He said Nawaz’s bail order has expired and he will now have to surrender to the law. “He [Nawaz Sharif] has to come to Pakistan and serve his sentence. His constitutional rights do not remain,” he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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