The Senate on Friday passed the amended Election Bill 2017 amid a walkout by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

During proceedings in the Upper House, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan presented an amendment to the bill which stated that any person ineligible to hold office as an MNA is ineligible to hold the position of head of a political party.

Thirty seven members of the house voted in favour of Ahsan's amendment, whereas 38 voted against it.

The amendment would have prevented ousted premier Nawaz Sharif from becoming president of the PML-N once again ─ a post which he was declared ineligible for after disqualification from public office.

Article 203 of the Election Bill, to which Senator Aitzaz Ahsan proposed an amendment.
Article 203 of the Election Bill, to which Senator Aitzaz Ahsan proposed an amendment.

The bill also proposes electoral reforms including:

  • A fine of up to Rs0.1 million for lawmakers or three years in jail if irregularities are found in details of their assets
  • Termination of lawmakers' membership if they fail to submit asset details within 60 days
  • ECP gets additional powers allowing it to summon services of any institution to investigate irregularities in asset details

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani staged a walkout of the Upper House today, saying he had done so as the House had voted against his decision to disallow Law Minister Zahid Hamid from moving an amendment to an amendment to Clause 60 of the bill.

"During consideration of Clause 60 of the Bill, an amendment was moved which was put to the House," Rabbani said in a statement.

"Thirty nine members voted in favour of the amendments and 38 against the same. Consequently, the amendment was carried."

"Subsequently, while the said clause was still under consideration, the Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid came with a proposal of moving an amendment to the amendment to restore clause 60 to its original form and annul the amendment carried by the House," Rabbani explained.

The chairman said he had used his discretion under rule 105 of the Senate rules of procedure to deny permission to move the amendment.

"However, he kept on pursuing [the matter] and pleaded that this amendment is very important and members do want to re-consider. Despite the fact that I had already given my decision, I bestowed my powers to the House to take decision in this regard," he said.

"The House voted against my decision, therefore, keeping in view ethical standards of morality and Parliamentary traditions I decided not to sit in the House for consideration of this bill.

It will now return to the National Assembly for approval. If the lower house of parliament passes the bill with amendments, it will become a law after formal assent by President Mamnoon Hussain.

If the assembly refuses to accept the bill, it will go to a joint sitting of Parliament.

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