Tuesday, May 04, 2021
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday said the federal cabinet had approved two ordinances in line with its efforts to bring about reforms in the country’s electoral process.
One ordinance pertains to electronic voting, whereas the other aims to facilitate overseas Pakistani voters.
The move comes a few days after PPP’s NA-249 by-election victory which saw harsh words being exchanged between Opposition parties as well as criticism against the government, over what PML-N termed a “stolen” election.
It also comes after Prime Minister Imran Khan extended an invitation to Opposition parties to sit down with the government and work on electoral reforms so elections can be made transparent.
Chaudhry, addressing a post-cabinet meeting press conference in Islamabad today, said the federal cabinet approved the two ordinances in line with the same aim.
"The government's electoral reforms consist of four parts: EVMs, e-voting for overseas Pakistanis, use of biometric authentication, and legislation," the minister said.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would now be able to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next elections, the minister said.
"The election commission will also work to develop a strategy for allowing overseas Pakistanis to cast their vote," the information minister said.
Chaudhry said the government had completed work on legislation regarding electronic voting, while the technology works for the biometric voting system were still underway.
Speaking of ECP’s decision to allow a recount in the entire NA-249 constituency, Chaudhry said that the PTI demands a re-polling instead.
The minister said one of history's "worst" rigging took place during the NA-249 by-election, and that is why the ECP had ordered a recount.
The federal minister said it would be “a joke” if a person with “such a low amount of votes” made their way into the National Assembly. PPP’s Abdul Qadir Mandokhel had secured victory with 16,156 votes. The PTI candidate on the other hand, Amjad Ali Afridi, 8,922 votes.
The information minister said coronavirus SOPs were not being followed in Karachi, and the Sindh government should start working on improving the situation there. "The cabinet has approved Sindh's request for deployment of the army for ensuring implementation of the SOPs."
Chaudhry said the federal government had decided to give extended Eid-ul-Fitr holidays in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
On the vaccination front, the minister said the anti-vaccine lobby was active not only in Pakistan but across the globe. "The people who get themselves vaccinated will stay safe from coronavirus."
Chaudhry said the federal cabinet also approved a 90-day remission period for prisoners on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. However, the remission will not apply to prisoners sentenced over the more serious crimes.
The information minister said a facility to obtain succession certificates through NADRA will now be provided to overseas Pakistanis, and in the first phase, desks will open in twenty-four embassies.
The cabinet has approved the issuance of a commemorative coin to pay tribute to NED University Karachi on the 100 years of its establishment, he said.
The minister said the cabinet also approved a 10% withholding tax waiver on private sector bids in railways.
Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan's upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia would contribute to expanding bilateral ties. The premier will depart for the Kingdom on the 25th of Ramadan.
Later in the day, PML-N responded to the government's announcement of approving ordinances for electoral reforms, saying the country was falling behind on several fronts.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said if the matters of the state were conducted according to the Constitution, there would be no need for electoral reforms.
"Making electronic voting machines (EVMs) is neither the parliament's nor the government's job. It is the election commission's work," the PML-N leader said.
"In the last elections, RTS (Results Transmission System) was used, and for the next elections, they are trying to introduce electronic voting machines," he added.
PML-N leader Pervez Rashid said that coronavirus continues to pose a serious threat to people's lives — oxygen, ventilators, and vaccines are needed at the moment.
"But heartless and reckless rulers" are discussing electoral reforms, he said.