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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday directed Railways Minister Azam Swati to furnish, within 15 days, his reply to a show-cause notice in the case related to contempt of the electoral body after the minister sought a month to submit reply but the commission rejected his request.

A two-member ECP bench comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi heard the case. The railways minister appeared in-person in connection with the case. The ECP has summoned Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry today (Wednesday) in the same case.

In the cause list of the electoral body for Tuesday, the case against Swati was captioned: "Use of unparliamentary, derogatory, intemperate language, baseless allegations and contemptuous remarks against the Election Commission of Pakistan and the chief election commissioner." During hearing of the case, Swati informed the bench regarding change of his counsel - from Faisal Chaudhry to Ali Zafar.

He said that Zafar was occupied with Model Town Lahore case and needed a month to file reply in this case. "That's too much time," remarked Durrani, adding that 10 days were enough for the minister to file his reply. Later, the ECP bench gave him 15 days to file the reply and adjourned the hearing of the case till November 11. "My appearance at the ECP has increased its prestige," Swati told the media after the hearing.

"Glad, I was not summoned for theft, dacoity or stealing public money. I was served [a] show cause notice. I followed the law and appeared before [the] ECP keeping in view the sanctity of [the] ECP," he added.

Earlier on Thursday, the ECP issued a show cause notice to the railways minister after neither the minister nor his designated counsel showed up at the ECP's scheduled hearing of the case related to Swati's strong criticism of the electoral body, last month.

On September 10, 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 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

"This ECP is good for nothing- it always rigged polls- it took bribes for that purpose- such institutions should be set on fire," Swati said in a hard-hitting diatribe against the ECP.

The minister added, "The ECP is making a mockery of the government's efforts to hold free and fair elections. It would not be allowed to undermine democracy." The minister even suggested that the ECP should be "disbanded" and the Constitution should be amended to allow the government to hold the general polls. Seemingly embarrassed by the minister's unexpected verbal offensive, the ECP officials walked out of the committee proceedings.

Later in the day, Fawad Chaudhry accused the Chief Election Commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja, of acting as a "mouthpiece for the opposition." On September 14, the ECP 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 the CEC respectively. A source in the 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.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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