Saturday Jun 19 2021
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Shahbaz Sharif summons APC to discuss govt's Election Amendment Bill

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  • Proposal for an all-parties conference has already been backed by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. 
  • Both leaders agree on APC after Shahbaz Sharif called them to discuss election bill.
  • Shahbaz says all Opposition parties, besides various organisations and institutions monitoring elections will be invited to the APC.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has decided to call a multi-party conference of the Opposition to discuss the Election Amendment Bill introduced by the government.

The proposal for an all-parties conference, as it is usually termed regardless of whether or not all parties participate, has already been backed by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The two leaders agreed on the APC after Shahbaz called them for their input.

“We fully support your initiative,” the JUI-F and PPP heads told Shahbaz.

“All Opposition political parties will be invited to APC,” Shahbaz said about the moot. He also said that various organisations and institutions monitoring the elections will also be invited to the APC.

According to PPP officials, Bilawal told Shahbaz that the APC could be an important opportunity for developing national consensus on holding transparent and free elections. Meanwhile, Fazl told the PML-N president that his “suggestion was timely and appropriate”.

13 sections of Election Amendment Bill in conflict with Constitution: ECP

Apart from the Opposition, the ECP has also objected to the NA-passed election bill.  

The ECP has informed the federal government that 13 sections of the National Assembly-approved Election Amendment Bill are in conflict with the Constitution.

The ECP contacted the federal government via the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs about its reservations through a letter. The letter was written by the ECP secretary to his counterpart at the ministry.

The ECP has asked the ministry that Prime Minister Imran Khan be informed about the body’s objections to the bill.

Read more: Final decision regarding use of EVMs in elections will be taken by ECP, says Arif Alvi

In the letter, ECP said that the bill passed by the National Assembly conflicts with the Constitution. It said that the demarcation of constituencies based on voters rather than the population is not in line with the Constitution.

“The rights regarding the voters list are under the purview of the ECP and 13 provisions of the proposed Election Act are unconstitutional,” said the ECP secretary in the letter.

It also said that using the open ballot method instead of secret voting for the Senate polls conflicts with the opinion given by the Supreme Court.

NA passes a record 21 govt bills in one day

Last week, the National Assembly passed a record 21 government bills, including the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan had tabled the bill for consideration after suspension of the rules.

The House passed the bill with majority vote after voice voting, state media had reported.

Read more: Is the government’s new election bill defanging an independent ECP?

The Election (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced in the National Assembly on October 16, 2020. It was referred to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs the same day.

Elections (Second Amendment) Bill

Likewise, the House also passed the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill which pertains to fair, free and transparent election through utilisation of technology and modern gadgets.

The bill is also aimed at granting voting rights to the Overseas Pakistanis which may only be possible by vesting exclusive authority in ECP with technical assistance of NADRA and other agencies.

Read more: Electronic voting only solution to prevent rigging, ensure transparency in polls, says PM Imran Khan

Amendments were sought in section 94 and 103 of the Election Act, 2017 to achieve the aforesaid objectives.

This bill was also piloted by Awan in the House.