NA panel clears bill to amend Elections Act

Published June 9, 2021
A standing committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday cleared a bill seeking to amend dozens of clauses of Elections Act, 2017. — Photo courtesy Ghulam Dastageer/File
A standing committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday cleared a bill seeking to amend dozens of clauses of Elections Act, 2017. — Photo courtesy Ghulam Dastageer/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid a warning by the opposition against legislation in haste, a standing committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday cleared a bill seeking to amend dozens of clauses of Elections Act, 2017.

The NA Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs met for a second consecutive day with MNA Mujahid Ali in the chair. The panel appreciated government efforts to draw the attention of government functionaries to electoral reforms in order to ensure transparent and fair elections in future.

The proposed electoral reforms pertain to nomination fee for candidates of the national and provincial assemblies, delimitation, electoral rolls, open ballot for Senate elections, voting right for overseas Pakistanis and use of electronic voting machines in elections.

Opposition members give dissenting notes, warning against legislation in haste

The Elections (Amendment) Bill 2020 was introduced in the National Assembly on Oct 16, 2020. Major proposed changes included more financial autonomy to the Election Commission of Pakistan (Section 11(2)); delimitation on the basis of equal number of voters instead of population (Sections 17 and 20); appeal to the Supreme Court by any aggrieved person on delimitation lists (Section 21(5) new); variation in delimitation not exceeding five per cent (instead of 10pc) (Section 20); sections relating to electoral rolls by the ECP to be omitted (24, 26, 28-34, 36-42, 44); electoral rolls same as registration of Nadra’s ID data (Section 25); appointment of polling staff from amongst the officers/staff from outside of a constituency (Section 53); provision to challenge appointment of polling officers/staff within 15 days of appointment (Section 15); increase in nomination fee from Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 for National Assembly and from Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 for provincial assembly candidates (Section 61); vacation of seats of returned candidate if oath is not taken within 60 days from the first sitting (Section 72-A new); appointment of one election agent for a polling booth instead of a polling station (Section 76(1)); voting right for overseas Pakistanis (Section 94); use of electronic voting machines in elections to make it transparent (Section 103); polling for Senate elections under open ballot (subject to amendment in Article 226 of the Constitution); enlistment of political parties on the basis of 10,000 members (instead of 2,000) including 20pc women (Section 202); annual convention by political parties (Section 213-A new); and introduction of timelines for various election procedures.

The standing committee deliberated upon the proposed amendments and recommended that the bill be passed with a majority of members in the meeting.

The bill was cleared, though opposition members gave their dissenting notes and remarked that this was a very sensitive issue that needed to be analysed in depth and the committee should refrain from passing the bill in haste.

Maleeka Ali Bukhari, Rukhsana Naveed, Zille Huma, Mehmood Bashir Virk, Mahesh Kumar Malani, Shaheen Naz Saifullah, Moulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan and representatives of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and the ECP also attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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