ISLAMABAD: Keeping up the confrontational stance of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) against the current setup, President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday once again refused to sign the crucial bill aimed at scrapping electronic voting machines (EVM) and giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

However, his refusal will make little difference as this bill as well as the one that clips the National Accountability Bur­eau’s (NAB) wings are likely to become laws on Monday (today).

According to a statement issued by the Presidency, Dr Alvi gave his reasons for not signing the bill, saying that he had been pursuing the issue of EVMs and voting rights for expatriates in the parliament and the Supreme Court for more than a decade.

“He has not signed the bill despite the fact that the Constitution that he upholds will make it into law (after 10 days from receiving the bills for his assent — June 19),” it added.

EVMs, NAB laws likely to come into effect today; Alvi terms move ‘regressive’

Bills on the EVMs and NAB amendment were passed by the National Assembly and Senate on May 26 and were sent to the president for approval. However, Mr Alvi sent them back on June 4, following which the government convened a joint sitting of the parliament on June 9 to pass the bills — which were cleared the same day.

Procedurally, after bills are passed by the joint sitting, they are presented to the president for his assent. If the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it will be deemed to have been given.

Despite this fact, President Alvi sent back the election reforms bill unsigned.

It is believed that they will become laws on Monday, once they are sent for publication in the official gazette.

The president refused to approve the bills twice and referred to Article 75 (2) of the Constitution, which states that: “When the President has returned a Bill to the Majlis-e Shoora (Parliament), it shall be reconsidered by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parlia­ment), by the votes of the majority of the members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed for the purposes of the Constitution to have been passed by both Houses and shall be presented to the President, and the President shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.”

In the statement, Mr Alvi said it had been painful for him, personally as President of Pakistan, not to sign a bill passed by the parliament.

“Therefore, he must record his reasons for posterity,” it added.

While enlisting the reasons, the president said he strongly believed that technology today, especially with the EVMs when used judiciously, contained many solutions that reduced the impact of confusion, discord and accusations in “our ever-marred and challenged election processes”.

“Technology can also improve transparency, make elections inclusive with the vote of our overseas Pakistanis, build confidence and reduce polarisation to finally achieve our elusive dream of free and fair elections,” he added.

The statement further said: “President Alvi wanted Pakistan to leapfrog into the world of tomorrow, not to solve today’s problems only through the lens and experiences of yesterday but through newer and better scientific approaches that are available, or even ‘birthing’ today.”

“The president understands that this cannot happen without confidence-building measures across the aisles, and broad stakeholder involvement. Why was this not done and why the obvious was not visible to the opinion and decision makers will remain an enigma to him,” the statement added.

President Alvi said the present and future governments as well as parliaments would be facing two choices — whether to allow the past to drag Pakistan down or allow the lessons from the past and technologies of today to boost us into the bright progressive and dynamic future of Pakis­tan that has been our dream.

He said many such decisions would continue to challenge us, and history showed that those who make the right decisions rise, and those who did not, squander opportunities that obstruct their path to glory.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2022

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