ISLAMABAD: In a highly controversial move which has raised many eyebrows, a dissident PTI MNA Noor Alam Khan – whose own political survival is at stake due to a very serious defection pending before the ECP – moved a bill on Tuesday to oppose voting rights to dual nationals but supporting the right to franchise for those who do not hold dual nationality.
The dissident MNA, who introduced the bill titled, “The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022” aimed at amending the Elections Act, 2017, was not opposed by the law minister Azam Nazir Tarar – and the chair of the totally dysfunctional National Assembly due to en masse resignations of over 127 PTI MNAs, quietly referred the controversial bill to the concerned standing committee of the house for further deliberations.
Speaking on the occasion, the dissident MNA said that the dual nationals must not be given the right to franchise in the country as they owe allegiance to the foreign country where they have been residing.
He especially mentioned the expatriate Pakistanis residing in Canada, the UK, and the US, saying these people have taken the oath that they would even pick arms if needed to protect the country which grants them citizenship.
“They might be loving Pakistan but they do live there. If given the right to franchise, they will come here and will certainly give donations to the heads of certain political parties to influence the elections in Pakistan,” he added.
He reiterated that those living in the US, the UK, Canada, Italy or elsewhere should not be given voting right in Pakistan, adding those living in the Gulf countries who hold only Pakistani passport should be given the right to franchise.
The Law Minister said that the bill should be presented and discussed in the electoral reforms committee.
It is to be noted that the former government had passed a bill in the National Assembly which provided overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in the general elections.
In November 2021, the then special assistant to the prime minister on parliamentary affairs, Babar Awan presented the Electoral Reforms Bill, which included the usage of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general elections. The same bill provided overseas nationals with the right to vote.
Meanwhile, speaking on a point of order, the minister for economic affairs, said that the President has decided to reject all the advice sent to him by the prime minister. “If the president has nothing to do, he should go home,” he said while referring to the rejection of a summary sent to him by the prime minister to remove governor Punjab Omar Sarfraz Cheema.
The prime minister advised to remove the Governor of Punjab but the President rejected it, adding, “Doesn’t the prime minister have the authority to appoint governors in the provinces”.
He said that the constitution and the law were being violated at the Presidency but if the president had nothing to do then he should go home.
“We’ve prepared a resolution against the president [Dr Arif Alvi] and it would be presented in the house as we want the house to condemn the steps taken by the president,” he added.
Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) staged a walk-out from the house, saying she is going to boycott the house unless the opposition leader is appointed.
Speaking on a point of order, she highlighted the legitimacy of the house, saying there should be a strong opposition in the parliament, terming it the beauty of democracy.
She assured the house that her party would not criticize the government just for the sake of criticism, rather it would support its productive measures.
She also stressed the need for giving due water share to the Sindh as its people especially the farming community, were facing great difficulties due to the shortage of water.
The NA Speaker, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, said the house would soon decide about the opposition leader as two to three lawmakers were interested in the slot.
The candidate having the majority support of the lawmakers would be given the slot of the opposition leader in the NA.
While responding to a calling attention notice moved by Tahira Aurangzeb and others regarding an increase in the prices of edible items in the country, the state minister for finance, Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha, said that the government is utilizing all available resources to bring down the prices.
She said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, soon after assuming his office, had announced a massive relief package to protect people from high inflation.
She said under the package, 19 essential items were provided at subsidized rates through the Utility Stores network across Pakistan.
She said a 10kg bag of wheat flour was sold at the rate of 400 rupees and sugar at Rs70 per kg through the Utility Stores.
She said that the federal government is also requesting provinces to contribute in this regard to provide essential items to the people at lower rates.
Presenting Consumer Price Index of the last six weeks, Dr Pasha said that wheat flour and sugar prices decreased by over 17 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.
The House also offered fateha for the departed soul of former Member National Assembly Prince Mohiuddin, who had been a member of the House from Chitral.
Two other bills titled, “The Pakistan Environmental Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2022” and “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2022)” were also introduced in the house. The chair referred the bills to the concerned standing committees of the house.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022