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ISLAMABAD: A joint-sitting of the Parliament, Wednesday approved “The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2023” with several amendments in Election Act, 2017, delegating additional powers to the caretaker government to take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements or the projects already initiated.

After serious objections from its coalition partners, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), and opposition members on the amendment of section 230 in the Election Act, 2017, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had to dilute the amendment which states, “Provided that sub-section (1) and (2) shall not apply where the caretaker government has to take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements or the projects already initiated under the Public Private Partnership Authority Act, 2017, the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Act, 2022 and the Privatization Commission Ordinance, 2000.”

Earlier, the PML-N government had proposed the amendment which stated, “2(A) Sub-sections (1) and (2) shall not apply whenever circumstances exist which render it expedient for the caretaker government to take such actions or decisions necessary for the purpose of protection of economic interests of Pakistan dealing with bilateral and multilateral agreements with the international institutions and the foreign governments, including continuation and conclusion of projects initiated under the Public Private Partnership Authority Act, 2017, the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Act, 2022 and the Privatization Commission of Ordinance, 2000.”

Joint session of Parliament approves amendments to Election Act 2017

However, after strong objections from PPP and JUI-F on section 230 of Election Act, 2017, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq once again held an emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Electoral Reforms and discussed the draft of the bill and diluted the amendment in section 230 of the Act as mentioned above.

Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar said, while discussing the legislation said that the government had prepared a new draft of the said amendment after concerns were raised by the allies and opposition members.

“Apart from Section 230, there was 100 per cent consensus on all the other amendments,” he said.

Tarar clarified that while it was being said that the amendment to Section 230 was made a day earlier, “the truth is that the changes were proposed five days back via WhatsApp and email” to members of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms.

“But the committee was called again today (Wednesday) and examined the amendment to Section 230 again,” he said, adding that the members of the committee deemed the changes “unnecessary”.

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that he had no objection to other amendments in the Election Act, 2017.

“Section 230, as it stood yesterday, was opposed by a lot of members who had several observations against it. I am grateful to the Law Minister that he kept yesterday’s discussion in view and this is the beauty of the Parliament that the government is guided by the wisdom of the House.”

However, he said that “I believe that the powers, no matter what the exigencies that are existing, these powers should not be with the caretaker government.”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Ali Zafar said that a caretaker government could not replace an elected representative government. “The sole responsibility of the caretaker government is to hold fair, transparent, and timely elections. The caretaker government can only run the day-to-day administrative affairs of the country.”

He said that if the caretaker government was given the powers of an elected government, it would be tantamount to trampling the Constitution. “If the parliament doesn’t reject it today, the Supreme Court will strike it down in the next few days,” the PTI senator warned.

There is another amendment in clause 52 of section 231 in the Election Act, 2017, and two provisos shall be added, namely: “Provided that nomination on honorary basis or being a member of any board of any statutory body or any entity that is owned or controlled by the government or in which the government has a controlling share or interest or authority, by whatsoever named called, shall not be disqualification from being a candidate of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), a Provincial Assembly or a local government, as the case may be, under Articles 62 and 63, the State-Owned Enterprises (Governance and Operation) Act, 2023, the Companies Act, 2017 or any other applicable law or rules made thereunder: Provided further that payment of remuneration for any business including meeting fee and other perquisites on honorary basis to him being a member shall not tantamount to disqualification from being a candidate.”

According to another amendment in section 13 of Elections Act, 2017, for sub-sections (2) and (3), the following shall be substituted, namely: “The Presiding Officer shall immediately take snapshot of the result of the count and, as soon as connectivity is available and it is practicable, and it electronically or through other appropriate technology, send it electronically or through other appropriate technologies to the Commission and the Returning Officer before sending the original documents under section 90.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Jul 27, 2023 11:15am
The constitution is certainly in abeyance, and the monarchy is firmly entrenched at the helm. At any other time or place in our history, the mere suggestion of amendments would result in processions, protests, and dharna. But fear and greed are key and have changed the destinies of many nations in the past, mostly resulting in chaos.
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Maqbool Jul 27, 2023 11:16am
At least parliament has passed the Act rather than the modern trend of bye passing the Constitution n the Law. It seems more a requirement of IMF ( who refused to discuss the economy with past caretaker governments) than a novel idea by our Rulers .
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