- Overseas Pakistanis can now also electronically vote in next elections
The joint session of the Parliament passed on Wednesday the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 regarding use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
The passing of the amendments now allows the use of electronic voting machines as well as granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan presented the bill to amend the Elections Act, 2017 [The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021]. The motion to table the electoral reforms bill passed with 221 votes in favour while 203 lawmakers voted against it.
However, the opposition challenged the counting and demanded recounting.
As per the bill, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall, with the technical assistance of NADRA and any other authority or agency, enable overseas Pakistanis in prescribed manner subject to secrecy and security to exercise their right to vote during the general elections.
The bill also authorizes the ECP to procure electronic voting machines for the casting of votes in general elections.
International Court of Justice bill, 2021
The session has also passed the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) bill, 2021.
The bill provides for the right of review and reconsideration in the matter of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to give legal effect to the judgment of the International Court of Justice. In April 2017, a court in Pakistan had sentenced the Indian spy to death.
Govt wants to bulldoze important bills: Shehbaz
Earlier, addressing the floor, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said that he had written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser regarding his grievances about the haste in passing the bills without a consensus. "But we received no answer from you," he said.
He further said that the government wants to bulldoze bills, saying that it spoiled the traditions of parliament.
Terming the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) ‘Evil Vicious Machines’, the opposition leader said that the elected government wants to extend its term through EVM, as they cannot go to the people.
Shehbaz told the speaker that the people will not forgive him if he allowed the bills to be bulldozed in today's session.
Govt wants to wash away blackness of the past: Qureshi
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his address said that the parliament will pass laws to make the electoral process clean and transparent. The minister said that the government wants to wash away the blackness of the past.
Qureshi added that the government followed all legislation procedures, adding that they had consulted opposition members, but they paid no attention.
Responding to Shehbaz’s 'Evil Vicious Machine’ statement, the minister said that EVM is not vicious but will bury all evil designs and thoughts, adding that the government wanted to prioritise a credible and transparent electoral process.
"You call EVMs 'evil and vicious machines' and that is your right. But EVMs are not evil and vicious machines, they are being introduced to bury evil and vicious designs," Qureshi said.
"The PTI and its allied parties are fully united and have the majority to get the electoral reforms bill passed," he added.
After Qureshi's address, there was a heated exchange between the National Assembly Speaker and the opposition's lawmakers. Qaiser warned the opposition members of suspension and told them to stay within their limits.
'Will approach court over “one-sided" electoral reforms'
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the speaker must "respect his own chair" and "respect his own position".
Criticising the government's "one-sided" electoral reforms, Bilawal said that if the government continued in the manner it was proceeding in, then the opposition would not accept the results of the next election if the EVM bill is bulldozed.
The PPP leader said that the government should bring consensus electoral reforms after consultations with the opposition parties.
He said that they will approach the court over the government's one-sided" electoral reforms.
Last week, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had announced that the joint sitting scheduled for November 11, had been postponed, saying that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was again asked to get in touch with the opposition so that a bill on electoral reforms could be introduced.
"We hope that the opposition will seriously consider these crucial reforms so that we can come up with a strategy for the country's future," he said, adding that the government will not back down from poll reforms until this happens.
MQM-P to support govt on electoral reforms
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has decided to support the government on the EVM bill. On Tuesday, a delegation of MQM-P called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and discussed matters of mutual interest and legislations relating to the joint sitting of the Parliament.
The delegation consisting of Aminul Haq and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui discussed bills being tabled during the upcoming joint session of the Parliament.
Shehbaz Sharif, opposition parties discuss next step
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif telephoned several leaders of the opposition parties on Tuesday and discussed what to do next and how to block the government’s plans of legislation in the joint sitting.
According to sources, Shehbaz telephoned Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP) Chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) Chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Awami National Party (ANP) central leader Amir Haider Khan Hoti, Chief of National Party Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Mohsin Dawar, and Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq.
The opposition leader expressed his appreciation over the united efforts of the Opposition in Parliament and thanked them for their cooperation.