ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has sought six weeks from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit his reply to a notice he received after an outburst against the organisation on Sunday.
An informed source told Dawn that the minister had filed an application through his lawyer Aftab Maqsood on Thursday.
It was not clear whether Azam Swati, another minister under notice, had moved a similar application or not.
The notices by the ECP asking the two ministers to provide evidence in support of allegations levelled against the organisation and its head, the chief election commissioner (CEC), were issued last Thursday (Sept 16).
The controversy over the government’s decision to introduce electronic voting machines in the face of objections raised by the opposition, as well as the ECP, flared up into a head-on confrontation on Sept 10 when federal Minister for Railways Azam Swati, during a meeting of the Senate committee on election reforms, accused the commission of receiving bribes from the opposition. He capped his tirade with an ominous observation that “such institutions should be set on fire”.
Hours later, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry described the CEC as ‘the opposition’s mouthpiece’ at a press conference. He alleged that the commission had turned into “the opposition’s headquarters”.
The ECP grabbed TV headlines when it summoned a record of the ministers’ broadsides and issued notices to them. Mr Chaudhry said he wondered if proceedings of a parliamentary committee could be called into question.
Even after issuance of the notice, Railways Minister Azam Swati renewed his rant on Sept 20, singling out Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja for what he said “messing around” with the government.
Speaking at a press conference with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, Mr Swati raised questions over the CEC’s appointment, saying the government had to swallow a “bitter pill” over his appointment to preserve the sanctity of this “constitutional institution”.
“But I don’t want to, and won’t, reveal how you [CEC] were appointed.”
He also called upon the CEC to “explain at whose behest he was destroying such a great institution”.
“I, this nation and overseas Pakistanis, want to know the answer,” he added.
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021