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ISLAMABAD: A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan and coalition partners joined hands on the government’s electoral reforms agenda and decided to convene Parliament’s joint session for legislation on these reforms, PM’s Parliamentary Advisor Babar Awan Wednesday called on Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja to take the latter into confidence on the matter.

In the meeting, Awan assured Raja that government would allay the concerns of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding different points envisioned in the two bills of electoral reforms, for which, the meetings with and briefings to ECP from the relevant departments would be arranged in near future, it is learnt.

The advisor also assured the CEC that ECP’s powers mandated by the Constitution of Pakistan would not be comprised as result of the fresh legislation on electoral reforms and the government departments would work in liaison with the commission mainly to assist the electoral body in holding free and fair elections, senior government officials told Business Recorder.

Later, speaking to media, Awan said that all the relevant stakeholders including the opposition will be taken into the loop over electoral reforms. He said the government needs cooperation from the opposition “not only for electoral reforms but also judicial reforms.”

The National Assembly session would be convened on Friday morning wherein the agenda to summon Parliament’s joint session would be moved, the advisor said.

He said Senate session would also be summoned in the coming days.

The meeting between the PM’s aide and CEC took place a day after the leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) coalition partners met the PM and voiced full support to his electoral reforms agenda, especially the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general elections Tuesday.

The PM took the allies into confidence regarding the government’s two key bills on election reforms; Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021 and Elections (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 that have been passed by the National Assembly but rejected by the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs in September, this year, a PTI lawmaker, requesting not to be named, told Business Recorder.

The development indicated that hostility between the federal government and ECP would mount in the coming days.

The ECP has voiced concerns on the government’s electoral reforms agenda, which envisions the introduction of EVMs in 2023 general elections and assigning Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority) the central role in the preparation of voter lists while the ECP is opposing these proposals. The electoral body is also opposed to the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of population instead of voters as envisaged in the electoral reforms.

In addition, the ECP is hearing cases against Railways Minister Azam Swati and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry for strongly criticising the commission over its opposition to government’s electoral reforms agenda.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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