ISLAMABAD: Minister for Law and Justice Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar on Thursday held out an assurance that general elections will be held on time.

Talking to Canadian High Com­mis­sioner Ms Leslie Scanlon, who called on him here, the minister said that strengthening democracy was the top priority of the government.

The remarks came in the wake of rumours about extension in the term of the National Assembly which, along with provincial assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan, is set to expire on August 12.

The minister informed the Canadian High Commissioner that the Army Act and the laws made under it guaranteed the rights of any accused.

ECP dismisses rumours international observers won’t be allowed to monitor polls

Long-term dividends of partnership and cooperation between Pakistan and Canada in mining projects also came under discussion during the meeting.

Expressing concern over growing incidents of Islamophobia in the world, Mr Tarar said that desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden is a clear example of Islamophobia.

He said the government had decided to participate in protest demonstrations against the incident to convey its message to the world and to bring the situation under control.

The Canadian High Commissioner later took to Twitter to thank Mr Tarar for being open to answering all of her questions.

“Canada is of course keenly interested in current events in Pakistan so it was really useful to have such a broad-ranging conversation,” she tweeted.

ECP dismisses rumours

In a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday dismissed rumours of disallowing international poll observers in the general elections and said it will welcome national and international observers to monitor upcoming general polls as per tradition.

“The ECP, traditionally and as per its mandate, has always welcomed both national and international observers to observe the process of elections to ensure electoral transparency,” Qurat-ul-Ain Fatima, a spokesperson for the ECP, said in a statement.

“The organisation has worked dedicatedly on framing a comprehensive code of conduct for international observers this year and it will be looking forward to all observation missions for upcoming General Elections. As per SOPs, the invitations for international observers will be commenced by mid of August 2023. The ECP shall float internatio-nal invites through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) (u/s 238 of the Elections Act, 2017); once the date of the General Elections is announced,” Ms Fatima said.

The statement came in response to remarks by Head of the Election Observation Mission of EU Parliament Michael Gahler who reportedly said the EU may not send its election observers to Pakistan this year because they are not sure about general elections being held in the country this year.

He said that they need an invitation from the government of Pakistan to send an observation mission for monitoring of election at least three months before the election date, but they have not received any invitation from Pakistan so far.

He said that according to his understanding, the election in Pakistan should be held in October, but there are no indications of election. That’s why it will not be possible to send an observation mission but if elections are held next year, then they can hope to send an expert mission.

Separately, Federal Minister Ayaz Sadiq was elected as chairman of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms on Thursday.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2023

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