ISLAMABAD: Pandemo­nium broke out in the upper house of parliament on Friday when the Senate passed two crucial bills — Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022 and National Accoun­tability (Second Amend­ment) Bill — amid strong opposition from the Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), a day after they sailed thro­ugh the National Assembly.

Torn-up copies of the agenda flew in the house as PTI lawmakers gathered near the Senate chairman’s podium when the first bill was moved. Chanting slogans against what they called ‘imported’ government, they warned the move would deprive overseas Pakistanis of the voting right facility.

However, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, who is also leader of the house in Senate, made it clear that the overseas Pakistanis were not being deprived of their right to vote, rather the bill sought to empower the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure voting rights without compromising secrecy.

The two bills, which were taken into consideration at once without being referred to the standing committees concerned, sailed through the house.

Leader of the Opposition in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem earlier asserted the opposition would not allow anyone to ‘rob’ overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote or compromise on the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

While rejecting the objections raised by the ECP over the use of EVMs as “a mere piece of paper”, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz also slammed the law minister for trying to create an impression as if amendments to the draft law by the committee were acceptable to him.

The law minister then referred to the Senate standing committee on parliamentary affairs meeting during which the then federal minister Azam Swati had talked about setting fire to the ECP, followed by a tirade against the commission by Mr Swati and Fawad Chaudhry. He recalled that when the ECP issued notices to them, they had to tender apology in writing.

The Senate session once again witnessed an uproar, as opposition members chanted slogans of “imported government” and “no to NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance)”, when the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 bill was moved in the house.

The PTI’s protest continued even after the passage of the two bills prompting Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to adjourn the house to meet again on Monday at 4pm.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2022

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