- ECP issues notice to Railways Minister Azam Swati and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry for their public outbursts against the CEC
Islamabad: Four days after two federal ministers lambasted the ECP for its alleged opposition to government’s efforts to introduce electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections, the electoral body, Tuesday, finally decided to initiate action against Railways Minister Azam Swati and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, while rejecting their allegations against it, as well as, the chief election commissioner.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The meeting decided to ‘seek proof’ from Swati regarding his allegations against the ECP. It also decided to issue notices to Swati and Chaudhry for their public outbursts against the ECP and CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja, respectively.
Also, the ECP decided to get relevant record from Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority), Presidency and Senate Secretariat regarding the allegations levelled by the two ministers.
A source in ECP told Business Recorder that the ECP decided to initiate proceedings against the two federal ministers in exercise of its powers under Section 10 of Elections Act 2017. This section grants the ECP the powers of a high court to punish for contempt.
“Power to punish for contempt - The commission may exercise the same power as the high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003— or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly as if reference therein to a court and to a judge were a reference, respectively, to the commission and the commissioner or, as the case may be, a member of the commission,” it reads.
In addition, Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan that deals with contempt of court, reads, “(1) In this Article, ‘court’ means the Supreme Court or a high court.
(2) A court shall have power to punish any person who;
(a) abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the court in any way or disobeys any order of the court;
(b) scandalises the court or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the court or a judge of the court into hatred, ridicule or contempt;
(c) does anything which tends to prejudice the determination of a matter pending before the court; or
(d) does any other thing which, by law, constitutes contempt of the court.
(3) The exercise of the power conferred on a court by this Article may be regulated by law and, subject to law, by rules made by the court.”
Article 63 (1) (g) that deals with the disqualification of parliamentarians, reads, “(1) A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if— (g) he is propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan.”
Earlier on Friday, the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs had a tumultuous session with the treasury members having categorically expressed their displeasure with the ECP for repeatedly opposing the federal government’s efforts to launch the EVMs, which, the government says, aim at bringing transparency in electoral process.
“This ECP is good for nothing—it always rigged polls—it took bribes for that purpose—such institutions should be set ablaze,” Swati had alleged in a hard-hitting diatribe against the ECP that has come under wide public criticism for opposing introduction of EVMs.
In the same vein, the minister added, “The ECP is making mockery of government’s efforts to hold free and fair elections. It would not be allowed to undermine democracy.”
The minister even suggested that ECP should be ‘disbanded’ and the Constitution should be amended to allow the government hold the general polls.
“What good is this ECP for—if it cannot hold free and fair elections—or even support the government’s efforts to hold free and fair elections,” Swati remarked.
Seemingly embarrassed by the minister’s unexpected verbal offensive, the ECP officials walked out of the committee proceedings.
Later, treasury members led by Swati staged a walkout against Committee Chairman Taj Haider from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for not allowing newly inducted committee member Samina Mumtaz Zehri from Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) to take part in voting on EVMs through videoconferencing.
After the treasury members walked out, Haider proceeded to hold voting on proposed amendments related to EVMs in the absence of treasury members. The opposition members participated in the voting to reject proposed amendments in the Elections Act 2017 [Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021] that allowed EVMs and internet-voting (i-voting – for overseas Pakistanis) in general elections.
Later in the day, Chaudhry accused the CEC of acting as a “mouthpiece for the opposition.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021