Azam Swati's written apology submitted to ECP for tirade against electoral watchdog

Published December 3, 2021
Railways Minister Azam Swati addresses a press conference in Islamabad in this file photo. — APP
Railways Minister Azam Swati addresses a press conference in Islamabad in this file photo. — APP

Railways Minister Azam Swati's apology was submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday for his remarks against the electoral watchdog.

Swati had failed to appear in a previous hearing on the matter on November 16, with his co-counsel requesting more time to submit a reply. The ECP had warned that charges would be framed in today's hearing whether a reply was submitted or not.

Swati, along with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, had launched a tirade against the ECP on September 10. During a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs held to discuss proposed amendments in the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2021, Swati had accused the commission of "always" rigging polls and said that such institutions should be “set on fire”.

The minister had come down hard on the ECP and alleged that the ECP took bribes to rig polls. He said the commission was making fun of the government, and that it was not entitled to “ruin” democracy in the country. His comments had prompted ECP officials present in the meeting to walk out.

Swati's chief counsel, Barrister Ali Zafar, appeared in today's hearing conducted by a two-member bench headed by Nisar Ahmed Durrani. Zafar said that if a mistake had been committed against any constitutional institution then an apology should be made.

"Where is Azam Swati himself?" asked Durrani to which Zafar responded that the minister had to suddenly leave for Quetta. The ECP member said that Swati had requested exemption at the previous hearing as well.

"Is Azam Swati fleeing from the case?" Durrani remarked.

Zafar read out Swati's written apology to the ECP in the hearing. "[I have] always tried to make the Election Commission strong. I apologise if I caused any grievance," the apology said.

Durrani said that the ECP was doing its work with integrity and all institutions should respect one another. He granted an exemption to Swati for today's hearing.

While neither accepting nor rejecting the apology, the ECP directed Swati to appear in-person before it on December 22.

The ECP also reserved its verdict on the information minister's written apology, with Durrani saying that an appropriate order would be passed on it. Chaudhry had apologised to the ECP in the Nov 16 hearing and was directed to submit a written apology.

The electoral watchdog had issued notices to the two ministers on September 16, asking them to provide evidence within a week about the allegations of wrongdoing they had hurled at both the ECP and the chief election commissioner.

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. Swati had appeared before the ECP on Nov 11 but did not attend the Nov 16 hearing.

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