Cabinet approves amendments to Elections Act

Published April 10, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet. — APP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet. — APP/File

• Move may lead to cancellation of house membership of Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Nisar • Government ‘agrees’ on issuance of production orders for Shehbaz, Asif for talks on electoral reforms

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Friday approved amendments to Elections Act 2017 that may lead to cancellation of membership of two Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwarts — former finance minister Ishaq Dar and ex-interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan — from the Senate and Punjab Assembly, respectively.

A cabinet member told Dawn that there was no formal meeting of the cabinet on Friday; however, the decision was taken by signing a recommendation of the Cabinet Committee on Law by the members through circulation.

The committee had on Thursday approved a presidential ordinance recommending some amendments to the Elections Act and forwarded them to the federal cabinet for a final nod.

According to the amendments, elected representatives, including senators and members of the national and provincial assemblies and local bodies, must take the oath within 60 days, otherwise their seats will become vacant and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will de-seat them.

• Move may lead to cancellation of house membership of Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Nisar • Government ‘agrees’ on issuance of production orders for Shehbaz, Asif for talks on electoral reforms

Senator-elect Ishaq Dar had not taken the oath and later went into self-exile in London. Similarly, Chaudhry Nisar won the election on a seat of the Punjab Assembly but has neither taken the oath nor participated in any session of the assembly.

It has been learnt that following approval of the amendments, the ECP will be asked to cancel the membership of both PML-N leaders with immediate effect.

Interestingly, Supreme Court had suspended the Senate membership of Ishaq Dar about three years ago, in May 2018, after he failed to appear before the court.

However, Mr Dar’s counsel had said that his client could not appear because he was not well, adding that the former finance minister had been suffering from left arm and chest pains resulting from a spinal issue in his neck and might require surgery if his condition had not improved.

Mr Dar has been residing in London since October 2017. He had been declared an absconder by an accountability court in a corruption reference on May 8, 2018.

Govt considers PML-N demand

A source said the government was hopeful that the process of electoral reforms would start in the next few days as it had almost agreed to a PML-N’s demand for issuance of production orders for jailed Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and party’s senior leader Khawaja Asif.

The source said that following NA Speaker Asad Qaisar’s invitation to all opposition parties to sit with the government for electoral reforms, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had nominated MNA Naveed Qamar to represent the party in the parliamentary committee. Now the speaker has asked the PML-N to forward the name of its member for the committee.

According to the source, the PML-N has agreed to nominate its member for the committee on a condition that the government first issue production orders for its two jailed leaders. The source said the government had agreed to issue production orders for both PML-N stalwarts, following which the process of electoral reforms might be initiated.

Speaker Qaiser had last month written letters to the parliamentary leaders of all parties in the house, informing them of the decision taken by him after consultation with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani about formation of a parliamentary committee to carry out electoral reforms.

The letter with the subject “Appointment of Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms”, written by a joint secretary of the parliamentary committee and a copy of which was released to the media by the National Assembly Secretariat, says: “The speaker, in consultation with the Senate chairman, has been pleased to inform you that the subject committee consisting of leaders of the parliamentary parties in the National Assembly and the Senate is required to be appointed to undertake comprehensive electoral reforms.”

The government had moved a motion last week to authorise the NA speaker to form a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms comprising members from the opposition and treasury benches. The motion stated that the speaker would engage all the parliamentary parties before the proper formation of a parliamentary committee to carry out electoral reforms in the country.

While moving the motion, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan assured the opposition that the government would engage the opposition on electoral reforms before moving ahead.

However, the opposition reacted strongly to the formation of the electoral reforms committee and asked the government to share terms of reference of the proposed panel.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2021

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