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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Azam Nazeer Tarar, on Tuesday, informed the joint sitting of the parliament that the proposed amendments in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Bill, 2023 were finalised in consultation with all the political parties represent in the parliament.

The seemingly controversial piece of legislation – weeks before the departure of the outgoing coalition government – is aimed at empowering the caretaker prime minister, whose powers were limited to hold elections and run the day-to-day affairs in the past.

Speaking at the joint session of the parliament, which was held here with NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf in the chair, Tarar said that a special panel headed by Sardar Ayaz Sadiq having representation of various political parties, held a series of meetings for thorough deliberations on the amendments.

“The members including Naveed Qamar, Fahmida Mirza, Tariq Bashir Cheema, Aminul Haque, Afzal Dhandla, Agha Hassan Baloch, and Shiza Fatima Khawaja; Senators, Taj Haider, Kamran Murtaza, Manzoor Ahmed, and Ali Zafar actively participated in the discussions,” he added.

ECP empowered to decide election date: Bill aimed at reducing disqualification term passed by Senate

He said that the bill was examined clause by clause by the committee members, whose written submissions were included in the final report, adding all the amendments were prepared with consensus, reflecting a harmonious approach from all the political parties.

The minister said that it has been proposed that the presiding officer on polling day will transmit a snapshot of form-45 to the returning officer and the ECP.

He said that it has been made compulsory for the presiding officer to transmit election results by 2am and in case of any delay, the presiding officer concerned will have to explain the reasons, adding aspiring candidates can use their bank accounts for their election-related expenditure.

He also said that the report also proposes that the election observers will be accredited by the ECP.

Senators, Raza Rabbani of PPP, Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Ali Zafar of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and Kamran Murtaza of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) blasted the government for not sharing the draft of the bill with the MPs.

Rabbani said that no draft of the bill was shared with the lawmakers, and this shows the government wants to make the joint sitting of the house a rubber stamp, adding there are reports of proposed legislation are making rounds, and a supplementary agenda might be put forth.

“You want to make the joint session a rubber stamp like the National Assembly and the Senate, which is unfortunate. We will never become part of such legislation which might bulldoze the joint sitting and the parliament,” he maintained.

Zafar of PTI seconded Rabbani, saying the house was convened to do legislation, but the proposed draft of the bill was not circulated among the lawmakers.

He said that the lawmakers were not given adequate time to thoroughly review the proposed legislation to be passed by the House.

Mushtaq Ahmed of JI said that copies of the legislation had not been shared with the parliamentarians, making it difficult for them to participate effectively in the session.

The senators emphasized the importance of a strengthened parliament and suggested that the legislation be delayed by two to three days to allow ample time for the lawmakers to study the proposed bills properly.

Responding to the objections raised by the senators, the law minister said that some bills had been pending for two years and were now included in the agenda due to the approaching end of the present parliament’s term.

He said that the bills had been widely circulated in the house many times before, with numerous debates conducted, dismissing any notion of ill intent behind their inclusion.

Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif supported the law minister’s statement, affirming that all amendments in the Elections Commission bill were made with the consensus of all political parties present in the Parliament.

He criticised the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for its practice of carrying out legislation without adequate consultation with political parties.

The defence minister termed the women members of the PTI as “garbage and remnants”, adding the “garbage and remnants” of the PTI are still present in the house and questioning our integrity without even slightly thinking about their own credibility“.

However, the NA speaker expunged the word “garbage” used by the minister against the PTI women members, after they strongly protested over the remarks passed by the minister.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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