Election Act amended to grant additional powers to interim set-up

Published July 26, 2023
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during a joint session of the Parliament on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during a joint session of the Parliament on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

A joint session of the Parliament on Wednesday passed amendments to the Election Act 2017, granting the caretaker government powers to take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements and projects.

The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2023, was presented by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

The PML-N had on Sunday announced that an amendment was being introduced to empower the interim setup to have powers similar to that of an elected government.

“The interim setup will not be confined to day-to-day affairs of the government till elections are held. An amendment is being brought (to the Constitution) to empower the caretaker setup to take important decisions like an elected government does,” PML-N supreme leader’s spokesperson Muhammad Zubair earlier told Dawn.

The amendment is among several others being proposed to the elections laws ahead of polls scheduled to take place later this year.

However, during a joint session of the Parliament a day earlier, objections were raised to the amendment after which it was deferred for a day.

When the session resumed today, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said the government had prepared a new draft of the said amendment after concerns were raised by the allies and opposition members.

“Apart from Section 230, there was 100 per cent consensus on all the other amendments,” he said.

Tarar clarified that while it was being said that the amendment to Section 230 was made a day earlier, “the truth is that the changes were proposed five days back via WhatsApp and email” to members of the Parliamen­tary Committee on Electoral Reforms.

“But the committee was called again today and examined the amendment to Section 230 again,” he said, adding that the members of the committee deemed the changes “unnecessary”.

Tarar further said that a new draft of the amendment, to simplify Section 230, had been shared by Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar. “Rest of the amendments that have been circulated are those on which there is 100pc consensus.”

The draft of the law, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said: “Provided that sub-sections 1 and 2 shall not apply where the caretaker government has to take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements or the projects already initiated under the Public Private Partnership Authority Act 2017, the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Act 2022, and the Privatisation Commission Ordinance 2000.”

Caretaker powers

Meanwhile, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that he had no objection to other amendments to the Election Act 2017.

“Section 230, as it stood yesterday, was opposed by a lot of members who had several observations against it. I am grateful to the law minister that he keep yesterday’s discussion in view and this is the beauty of the Parliament that the government is guided by the wisdom of the House.”

He asserted that wisdom prevailed and as a result, subclause one and subclause 2 of the amendment had been deleted.

However, at the same time, Rabbani said: “I believe that the powers, no matter what the exigencies that are existing, these powers should not be with the caretaker government.”

Separately, PTI Senator Ali Zafar said that a caretaker government could not replace an elected representative government.

“The sole responsibility of the caretaker government is to hold fair, transparent and timely elections. The caretaker government can only run the day-to-day administrative affairs of the country.”

Zafar added that if the caretaker government was given the powers of an elected government, it would be tantamount to trampling the Constitution.

“If the parliament doesn’t reject it today, the Supreme Court will strike it down in the next few days,” the PTI senator warned.

Opinion

In defamation’s name

In defamation’s name

It provides yet more proof that the undergirding logic of public authority in Pakistan is legal and extra-legal coercion rather than legitimised consent.

Editorial

Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...
ICJ rebuke
Updated 26 May, 2024

ICJ rebuke

The reason for Israel’s criminal behaviour is that it is protected by its powerful Western friends.
Hot spells
26 May, 2024

Hot spells

WITH Pakistan already dealing with a heatwave that has affected 26 districts since May 21, word from the climate...
Defiant stance
26 May, 2024

Defiant stance

AT a time when the country is in talks with the IMF for a medium-term loan crucial to bolstering the fragile ...