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ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Azam Swati, Friday, tendered an unconditional apology, through his legal aide, to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the contempt case while the electoral body summoned him on December 22 and reserved its verdict on the apology submitted earlier by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

A two-member ECP bench comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi heard the case.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Barrister Ali Zafar represented his party colleague Swati in the case. The Railways Minister did not attend the hearing.

During the proceedings, Jatoi, the Member ECP, asked Swati’s counsel about his absence. Zafar replied that Swati had to go to Quetta due to some ‘urgency.’ Therefore, he said, the minister could not attend the ECP proceedings.

“It seems that he (Swati) is shying away from these proceedings. Last time, he did not attend the proceedings and went to attend Senate session. This time too, he is not here,” the member ECP remarked.

The counsel replied that the minister appeared before the commission twice in this case and that he held the ECP and other state institutions in high esteem.

Zafar read out the written apology that had Swati’s signature on it. The apology letter quoted Swati as apologising to the ECP for his remarks, which he made against ECP in September.

Jatoi observed that the minister should appear in person before the bench to tender apology. The ECP bench summoned him in person on December 22 and adjourned the case till then.

The member ECP said the commission would issue ‘an appropriate order’ on the apology tendered by Chaudhry, the Information Minister, as the commission reserved its verdict regarding the matter.

On the last month’s 22nd, Chaudhry, through his counsel, tendered a written apology to the ECP in the contempt case and requested the electoral body to dispose of the case against him.

Before that, on November 16, the Minister for Information appeared before ECP and tendered a verbal apology in the contempt case while electoral body took strong exception to the absence of railways minister in the same case and warned to frame charges against him should he fail to appear in the next hearing on December 3.

On November 11, the ECP bench announced to frame charges against the railways minister in November 16 hearing while directing the minister to submit a reply to the show cause notice by the given date.

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 had said in a hard-hitting diatribe against the ECP. Later in the day, Chaudhry, the Information Minister, accused Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja of acting as a “mouthpiece for the opposition.”

The ECP initiated 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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