ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued a notice to Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry, asking him to appear before it on October 27 to explain his slanderous remarks against it as well as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
Sources said on Saturday the minister had been given a period of three weeks to explain his outburst against the ECP and the CEC, which expired on Oct 19.
Mr Chaudhry had filed an application seeking three more weeks to submit a written reply, but the commission declined to allow more time to him, the sources said.
The ECP has already issued a show-cause notice to Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati, asking him to appear in person before it on Oct 26 to explain his tirade against the commission and the CEC.
The commission had issued on Sept 16 notices to the two ministers, asking them to provide within a week evidence about the allegations of wrongdoing they had hurled at both the ECP and the CEC.
On Sept 23, Mr Chaudhry had sought six weeks to submit a reply, but was given three weeks, which period ended on Oct 19. Mr Swati chose not to respond at all to the ECP notice.
The controversy over the government’s decision to introduce electronic voting machines despite the objections raised by the opposition parties as well as the ECP turned into a direct confrontation when Railways Minister Swati accused the commission of receiving bribes and rigging the elections before saying “such institutions should be set on fire”.
He hurled the allegations during a meeting of a Senate committee before voting on two controversial bills seeking amendments to the elections act.
Addressing a press conference a few hours later, Information Minister Chaudhry termed the CEC “a mouthpiece of the opposition” and alleged that the commission had turned into the “opposition’s headquarters”.
Soon after the ECP had made headlines with its decision to summon the relevant record and issue notices to the two ministers, Mr Chaudhry said he wondered if proceedings of a parliamentary committee could be called into question.
After the issuance of a notice to him Mr Swati launched into yet another tirade of his on Sept 20, this time singling out CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja for what he called “messing around with the government”.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, he raised questions over the appointment of the CEC and said the government had to swallow a “bitter pill” on the matter to “preserve the sanctity of the constitutional institution”. Mr Swati went on to say: “I don’t want to and will not reveal how you [CEC] were appointed.”
He also asked the CEC to explain under whose “instructions he is destroying such a great institution”.
The two ministers made the controversial remarks just days after the ECP had objected to the government’s unilateral decision of introducing electronic voting machines at the time of next general elections.
Another blistering attack on the ECP came when Mr Chaudhry, accompanied by Mr Swati and Mr Awan, said at a press conference that the CEC had “played politics of stupid objections to voting machines”. “If they want to do politics, then a response will come,” he said.
Then, in what appeared to be a move aimed to create a rift within the ECP, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government asked its two members “to review” the decisions of CEC Raja.
“I would like to ask the two members of the ECP to come forward and review the decisions of the CEC,” said Mr Chaudhry while speaking at a news conference with federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz.
Mr Chaudhry also criticised the CEC for what he called opposing electoral reforms, including the use of voting machines in the next polls.
He was of the opinion that as the ECP members from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had not been appointed yet, the commission was incomplete.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2021