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ISLAMABAD: A day after the passage of electoral reforms by the Parliament, Secretary ECP Omar Hamid Khan said on Thursday that the electoral body was ‘unsure’ whether or not the 2023 general elections would be held on the EVMs.

He disclosed this in the meeting of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice chaired by Riaz Fatyana from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) faced a number of tough questions regarding the efficiency of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), lack of preparation by ECP to ensure timely launch of EVMs, issues related to transparency and related queries.

“There are challenges regarding EVMs. Whether these machines would be used in the general polls—nothing can be said at this point,” the secretary said, adding that three to four more pilot projects related to EVMs were required to be launched to test the efficiency of these machines.

Apart from that, the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice formed a four-member subcommittee to review the existing laws regarding the induction of the judges of superior judiciary including increasing their number.

The subcommittee comprises of Mehmood Bashir Virk from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) as its Chairman, and Shunila Ruth (PTI), Kishwar Zehra (Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Aliya Kamran (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) as its members.

According to its Terms of Reference, the subpanel would look into judicial reforms with specific reference to procedure for induction of judges including “enhancement of number of judges in superior judiciary.”

The subcommittee would be required to submit its report to the NA law and justice panel within 30 days. The subpanel has been constituted under Rule 224 (1) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007.

This rule reads, “Power to appoint subcommittees:- A committee may appoint one or more subcommittees, each having the powers of the whole committee, to examine any matter that may be referred to them.”

In addition, the committee deferred, till next meeting, the discussion related to the recruitment of judges of high courts.

The committee also considered the agenda related to discussion on tenure and election procedure of bar associations. The committee unanimously recommended that the tenure of election of bar associations shall be enhanced from one year to two years, elections of all bar associations except Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) shall be conducted in December, after every two years, and new cabinet shall take over the charge on the first of January after the election.

Furthermore, the campaign of the election shall be restricted to maximum two months before the election date. During discussion, the committee was of the view that “reasonable opportunities” were granted to representatives of lawyers but no adequate response was received from bar associations and bar councils regarding increase in the tenure of bar associations and related procedure of elections.

The committee considered The Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill 2020 (Section 5 and schedule), moved by Nafisa Shah from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

During discussions, the mover of the bill informed the meeting that Sindh Bar Council strongly supported the bill, which, she requested, be passed. The committee recommended that an increase of one seat in the Sindh Bar Council against the district Khairpur be approved.

Following consensus of its members, the committee unanimously passed the bill. However, the representatives of the Pakistan Bar Council and Sindh Bar Council did not attend the meeting. Committee members including Lal Chand, Farooq Malik, Kishwar Zehra, Junaid Akbar, Shunila Ruth, Mehmood Virk, Usman Ibrahim and others attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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