Monday May 03, 2021
LAHORE: PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah on Monday took a jibe at the PTI-led government and said that the Pakistani nation does not need electronic voting machines (EVMs) but needs the "dollar-making sewing machine" of Prime Minister Imran Khan's sister, Aleema Khan.
Sanaullah's comments came in response to the government's suggestion to introduce electoral reforms.
"The selected [prime minister] did not provide any relief to the masses [over the last three years] because he wants to get votes through the electronic voting machine, not from the masses," Sanaullah said.
Sanaullah went on to say that Imran Niazi wants to "make a living through the electronic voting machines but does not care about the wages of labourers."
"When Shahbaz Sharif spoke about electoral, parliamentary, and economic reforms, Niazi accused the PML-N of demanding the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)," Sanaullah said. "Now sit alone and cry over your electoral reforms fraud."
Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 1 stressed the need for electoral reforms after major political parties that contested the NA-249 by-election cast aspersions on the polling process.
The prime minister said in the by-polls, despite a low turnout, all parties were crying foul and claiming rigging. He recalled a similar hue and cry following the Daska NA-75 by-election and the Senate elections.
"In fact, apart from the 1970 election, in every election, claims of rigging have raised doubts over the credibility of election results," the prime minister said, in a series of tweets.
Going back to the 2013 general elections, he said there were 133 NA constituencies' disputes before election tribunals.
The premier said his party had demanded an examination of only four out of the 133 constituencies, and in all four, "rigging was established".
"But it took us a year and a 126-day dharna (sit-in) to get a Judicial Commission which found over 40 faults in the conduct of elections," the prime minister said.
However, despite all the efforts, the premier said no "substantive" reforms were put in place.
He said that the use of technology and electronic voting machines (EVMs) are the only answer to "reclaim the credibility of elections".
"I invite the Opposition to sit with us and select from EVM models we have available to restore our elections' credibility," he said.
The premier said for a year now, the federal government had been asking the Opposition to cooperate with it and help it reform the present electoral system.
"Our govt is determined and we will put in place reforms in our electoral system through the use of technology to bring transparency and credibility to our elections and strengthen our democracy," the prime minister added.
Referencing the US presidential elections to support his case, he said: "[Former US president] Trump's team did everything to dispute 2020 presidential election result, but because the technology was used in the electoral process, not one irregularity was found."
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Adviser to the Prime Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, in a joint press conference on Monday, shared details of the government's plan for electoral reforms to ensure transparency and fairness in the election process.
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs has proposed as many as 49 amendments to the Election (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
During Monday's press conference the two government officials gave a break down of what the amendments are. Awan said the reforms agenda envisages a series of amendments to the constitution and the Election Act 2017. He said the reforms agenda will be put forth before stakeholders, including the civil society, media and bar councils and associations.
Under the reforms, the adviser on parliamentary affairs said section 103 is being amended to allow the use of electronic voting machines to check rigging in the elections.
He said section 94 will be amended to give the right of franchise to overseas Pakistanis.
Awan stressed that there should also be democracy within political parties.
An amendment in section 202 proposes that political parties having representation of ten thousand members be able to get themselves registered. A new section of 213A is also being introduced making it compulsory for political parties to hold their annual conventions. An amendment in section 15 will provide an opportunity for the candidates to challenge the polling staff.
It was also proposed that the electoral rolls be prepared on the basis of registration data available with NADRA. Awan said the government wants the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of registered voters.
The adviser on parliamentary affairs said two constitutional amendments will also be brought with the aim to ensure open ballot in the Senate and allow overseas Pakistanis to contest the elections.
One major amendment proposes more financial autonomy for the Election Commission of Pakistan.
PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, quickly responding to the premier's offer, said the party accused of rigging the Daska elections was his — and claimed PTI had tried to "run away from reelection".
"The party accused of rigging in Daska was yours but awam (the people) made you bite the dust TWICE despite your efforts to run away from reelection," she said.
Taking a jibe at the prime minister, Maryam said his party "came last in NA-249, so you need not worry and please don’t try to look relevant".
"You have been REJECTED over & over again. Step down," she demanded.
The PPP secured victory in the NA-249 by-election held on Thursday in the city's District West, with unofficial, provisional results showing a close contest between the PML-N and PPP in the final count.
PPP's Abdul Qadir Mandokhel bagged 16,156 votes to win the seat, followed by PML-N's Miftah Ismail who secured 15,473, unofficial results from polling stations showed.
Both parties had claimed victory for their candidates mid-way into counting, capturing the attention of audiences awaiting results.
The PML-N pulled no punches in blaming the PPP for attempting to rig the result, saying they would not accept the result without challenging the ECP.
After the final count was announced, the PML-N's Maryam Nawaz said the election had been "stolen" from her party.