ISLAMABAD: The third meeting of the special parliamentary committee formed to probe alleged rigging in the July 25 general elections will be held on Monday (today) to discuss the proposed terms of reference (ToR) submitted by the opposition parties for the functioning of the committee.
The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held on Nov 28, but it was postponed as all ministers were attending the groundbreaking ceremony of the opening of Kartarpur Crossing for the Sikh community on that day.
Though the opposition parties have submitted their ToR, the government members of the committee are still questioning legal status of the parliamentary committee in the light of Article 225 of the Constitution.
During the last meeting of the sub-committee constituted by the main committee under the convenership of Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood, the opposition parties had submitted a 10-point ToR raising crucial questions over the conduct of the polls.
The ToR was prepared by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and endorsed by all other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Briefing reporters after the last meeting of the sub-committee, its convener had said some treasury members had questioned legal and constitutional status of the main committee in the light of Article 225 of the Constitution, prompting him to write a letter to the head of the main committee, Pervez Khattak, seeking his legal opinion on the issue, but he had not received any response so far.
Mr Mehmood, however, said they had decided to continue their work without waiting for the response as the government did not want to give an impression that it was running away from investigations into poll rigging allegations.
However, he said, Article 225 of the Constitution needed a clear interpretation and that a serious question had been raised whether the parliament or any other institution could hold investigations in the presence of this article.
Article 225 of the Constitution titled “election dispute” states, “No election to a House or a provincial assembly shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such tribunal and in such manner as may be determined by Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament).”
On the other hand, the opposition members criticised the government for questioning legal status of the committee, alleging that the ruling party was now running away from its commitment given on the floor of the house by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself.
Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Shafqat Mehmood said that he had still not received any response from Pervez Khattak on his letter.
Responding to a question, he said the ruling party members had also prepared a draft of ToR, but it would be given final shape in a meeting to be held before the committee’s proceedings. In the committee’s meeting, the members would also make deliberations on the opposition-submitted ToR.
Through the ToR, the opposition wants the committee to find answers to key questions like “who made the decision to post army officials inside and outside the polling stations, under what law and to what effect?; Why were polling agents removed from polling stations arbitrarily even though they had authorisation forms from the candidates? and why did the Result Transmission System (RTS) or the Result Management System (RMS) fail?”
According to the opposition, the committee should also probe whether “the Election Act 2017 and the rules made accordingly were implemented in letter and spirit by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other state authorities” and “was the election commission allowed to work independently and had complete autonomy to carry out the elections in accordance with the constitution and law?”
The committee, the opposition suggests, should also evaluate if “all political parties were provided a level playing field in terms of freedom to its candidates?”
Similarly, the opposition parties want to know “how many results were declared after midnight and why were the reasons in writing not given in each case as per law?”
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018