Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday apologised to the Election Commission of Pakistan for his remarks against the electoral watchdog and the chief election commissioner (CEC).
The ECP had issued a show-case notice to Chaudhry and Railways Minister Azam Swati on October 27 for their “caustic” remarks and serious allegations against it and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. The two ministers had launched a tirade against the institution in September with Chaudhry accusing the ECP of becoming the opposition’s headquarters and the CEC of acting as their mouthpiece.
On Sept 10, during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs to discuss proposed amendments to the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2021, Swati had accused the ECP of "always" rigging polls and said that such institutions should be “set on fire”.
Swati had come down hard on the ECP and alleged that the commission took bribes to rig polls. He said the ECP was making fun of the government, adding the commission was not entitled to “ruin” democracy in the country. His comments had prompted ECP officials present in the meeting to walk out.
Later that same day, Chauhdry, too, launched a blistering attack on the ECP. "You won't make the law," Chaudhry had told the ECP, saying the authority to legislate exclusively belonged to the parliament.
He had said it was not the entire ECP that was opposed to the government's proposals on electoral reforms, but "the chief election commissioner is more interested in acting as a mouthpiece of the opposition."
Chaudhry arrived at the ECP on Tuesday (today) for the hearing before a two-member bench comprising ECP members Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi. He said he had appeared in order to not get bogged down in a cycle of responses.
"My request is that this case is finished. I am a lawyer myself. I am a mouthpiece of the government. I did not curse anyone. Accept my apology," he said.
The ECP directed him to submit a written apology as well.
Meanwhile, during the hearing on Swati's notice, his co-counsel asked for more time, adding that a reply would be filed by tomorrow, and telling the bench that Swati could not appear for the hearing as he was busy with the Senate proceedings.
The ECP warned that charges would be framed on the next hearing whether a reply was submitted or not. The hearing was adjourned to December 3.
The electoral watchdog had issued notices to the two ministers on Sept 16 , 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, Chaudhry had sought six weeks to submit a reply, but was given three weeks, which ended on Oct 19. Swati chose not to respond at all to the ECP notice. The ECP had then issued a notice to Chaudhry asking him to appear before it on Oct 27.
Neither had turned up for the Oct 27 hearing, prompting the ECP to issue a show-cause notice for Nov 16 (today).