Saturday Jun 26, 2021
LAHORE: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday proposed a new formula for the representation of overseas Pakistanis in Parliament.
The PML-N chief, in a series of tweets, suggested reserving 5-7 seats in the National Assembly and 2 seats in the Senate so that the representatives can effectively raise the problems faced by the expats.
The proposal from Shahbaz comes after the PML-N came under fire by the ruling PTI over their opposition to the PTI's electoral reforms bill through which the overseas Pakistanis are given online voting rights.
"The modalities and conditions of representation on these reserved seats can be decided by all the political parties in the Parliament and the required legislation can be enacted with their consensus,” Shahbaz said.
In this way, Pakistanis abroad can get guaranteed representation in parliament, he said, adding that along the same lines, seats may be allotted in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to represent overseas Pakistanis.
The PML-N supports the right to vote for Pakistanis abroad under a democratic approach and principles, he said.
Shahbaz said during elections, expats can come to the country and cast votes at the polling stations mentioned in the voter lists.
"Our Pakistani brothers and sisters abroad are our precious asset and the pride of Pakistan," the PML-N president said.
"We want an immediate, fair, and just solution to all the problems of the overseas community that they face vis-à-vis Pakistan," Shahbaz said.
Last week, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had informed the federal government that 13 sections of the NA-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.
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.
Earlier this month, the NA had 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.
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.
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.
The Opposition parties have rejected the government's electoral reforms, with PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, on June 12, saying the government had passed two laws in the National Assembly that paved the way for it to "rig" the next elections.
On May 29, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had also rejected the government's "one-sided" electoral reforms, which include the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and announced a fresh wave of anti-government protests.
"PDM rejects the government's unilateral electoral reforms ordinance, including the voting machines, and terms it as pre-poll rigging," PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had said, as he addressed a press conference alongside PDM leaders.
In this regard, the Election Commission of Pakistan — which is responsible for holding transparent elections — should call a meeting of all political parties to take a unanimous decision on reforms, he had said.
Information Minister Chaudhry, speaking on the floor of the National Assembly on June 7, had said the Opposition had refused to talk to the government over electoral reforms.
"When we speak to them about electoral reforms, they ask us to first [amend] National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws," he had said.