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ISLAMABAD: Despite stiff resistance from the joint opposition, the government is all set to pass two key elections reforms bills as the House adopted a motion on Wednesday, paving the way for the bills to be passed through a joint sitting of the parliament to be convened soon.

The opposition parties declared the move a wilful attempt by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to rig future elections and making them controversial through such reforms, which have been rejected by both the opposition and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

After back to back fiery speeches ahead of the motion, the leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) leaders along with members of other opposition parties staged a walkout from the House in protest.

Khawaja Asif of the PML-N said that the opposition would not associate itself with the proposed elections reforms bill, adding under the pretext of free and fair election, the foundation of rigging is being laid today by the government.

“If you brazenly and blatantly tried to pass the reforms bill through a joint session, you are starting the fight today. If went ahead with this, we will not become part of the House proceedings,” he declared.

He continued that whether the general elections are held in 2023 or 2022, we are expressing our concerns today that the elections would be rigged.

Naveed Qamar of the PPP said that the opposition is striving for strengthening the future of democracy and the parliament, which could only be possible through consensus among all political parties on electoral reform bill.

“There is already a huge vacuum between the government and the opposition which has been further widened during the last three years. We made all-out efforts to make such an environment to settle the issue through consensus to end election controversy, but it did not work,” he regretted.

He said that the trials of EVMs as a pilot project was experimented in a bid to end the election controversy, but it failed and the report was never presented in this House.

“Billions of rupees of machines will be purchased but what could be done if it stops working? Who will certify its software? The Internet voting is too far, we could not even maintain simple internet,” he questioned.

He accused the government of bulldozing elections reforms bill through joint sitting of parliament and bypassing a committee formed by the NA speaker, which had the representation of all the parliamentary parties.

Maulana Asadur Rehman of JUI-F said that the point of view of the PPP, the PML-N, and the PPP is the point of view of thousands of people of Pakistan, adding the ECP objected to this bill, and endorsed the opposition’s point of view hence there is no point to pass it.

The Minister for Law and Justice, Dr Farogh Naseem, said that the opposition wants to disenfranchise the expatriate Pakistanis, which is not acceptable.

He said that with the introduction of EVMs, no one would have any justification to question the elections which would be transparent for the first time after 1972 elections.

Referring to clause 222 (d) of the constitution, he said that conduct of election is prescribed through an act of parliament and the ECP cannot make any objection to it.

Besides, the House also referred five bills including anti-rape bill to the joint session of parliament for passage.

The National Assembly also passed two bills presented by Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood that included the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and the Higher Education Commission (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Five ordinances were also laid in the House.

The House also adopted a motion of thanks to discuss the address of president on September 13, 2021 to the joint sitting of parliament.

Responding to calling attention notice regarding pendency of large number of civil servants’ cases in the Federal Service Tribunal (FST) due to delay in appointment of its members, the law minister said that the members’ appointment would be done within a month.

To a question about the extension to the incumbent chairman FST, he said though he has no idea about it, but it would be great if done so, as 99.9 percent of current FST chairman’s judgements in various cases have been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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