ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is meeting on Friday (today) with a heavy agenda, including a motion under which a joint sitting of parliament will be sought for the passage of the controversial Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021, aimed at using electronic voting machines (EVMs) and granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
The bill was earlier passed by the National Assembly but it was not adopted by the Senate within 90 days and thus it lapsed on Sept 14.
Another pandemonium in the lower house of parliament is expected in the fresh session commencing Friday.
“Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, to move under sub-rule (7) of rule 154 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, read with Article 70(3) of the Constitution, that the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021, as passed by the National Assembly but not passed by the Senate within the stipulated period of 90 days, be referred to the joint sitting for consideration and passage,” the agenda of the National Assembly said.
House to discuss bill aimed at use of EVMs and voting rights to overseas Pakistanis
Two clauses of the bill say “overseas Pakistanis to be extended voting rights and the use of electronic voting machines in elections to make it transparent”.
The bill has generated a new war of words between the government and the opposition as the former is bent upon implementing the bill while the latter vows to bulldoze it.
Interestingly, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also opposed the bill and observed that controversial clauses of the bill could not be implemented in the next general elections to be held in 2023.
Following the ECP’s stance, the government claimed that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, who was appointed by the present regime, sided with the opposition.
The ECP rejected the allegations levelled against it by the government ministers and asked them to produce evidence to back their claims.
Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati had lashed out at the ECP during a recent meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, accusing it of taking bribes to rig polls and said that such institutions should be “set on fire”.
He doubled down on his claims later in the day at a press conference with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who termed the CEC a “mouthpiece of the opposition”.
An ECP meeting presided over by Sikander Sultan Raja and attended by senior officials of the commission demanded evidence from Mr Swati for the comments he made about the ECP during the standing committee’s meeting.
The ECP has also sought the record from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority as well as all material regarding the standing committee incident and the press conference to be presented before it.
Opening of press gallery
Uncertainty prevails over reopening of the press gallery that was closed during the address of President Dr Arif Alvi to a joint session of parliament on Monday.
“We are not sure whether the gallery will be opened or not tomorrow,” Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) secretary general Asif Bashir Chaudhry told Dawn.
He said the association got to know through sources that the government would send some ‘goons’ to the press gallery to have a clash with journalists so that the NA speaker could justify closure of the press gallery that “it was closed because of violent protest of the journalists”.
He said the PRA would stage a protest even if the gallery was reopened. “If the gallery is reopened we will sit on the seats for a few seconds and will stage a boycott till the speaker tells us who were those journalists with whose consent he ordered the closure,” he added.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021