NA debates Elections Bill, suspends remaining agenda | Pakistan Today

NA debates Elections Bill, suspends remaining agenda

— PPP lawmaker demands electronic voting machines in next elections

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly initiated debate on the Elections Bill, 2017, while suspending the remaining agenda appearing on the Orders of the Day on Friday.

Following a motion passed by the House to suspend the regular business, MNA Syed Naveed Qamar opened the debate and said that all parties gave time and worked on the Elections Bill, 2017. He said there were many positive things in the Bill but asked for surety about non-manipulation of the next general elections.

He said that Minister for Law & Justice Zahid Hamid, Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar and all of them have worked on this bill and it would be collective failure in case rigging or manipulation in the next general elections was not stopped. All elections laws were combined to form one law in this bill while rights of women were focused.

The elections would be declared void in case women vote cast are less than 10 percent. The Election Commission has been given financial powers and it would decide itself by creating jobs and identify areas for its more strength. He said that major portion of this bill was in the constitution and there is need for correction there.

Naveed Qamar demanded to use electronic voting machines in the next general elections and to remove loopholes in the bill through collective and practical approach. Dr Shireen Mazari said that PTI actively participated in the meetings held to draft the Elections Bill.

She said that the constitutional amendments should be also made along with the passage of this bill which is crucial for free and fair elections. She appreciated the hard work of the law minister for drafting this bill and expressed reservations of her party on four issues which included to give right of vote to Overseas Pakistanis; independence and autonomy to the Election Commission even for drafting its rules; selection of caretaker government by 50 percent seats to the government and the opposition and use of bio-metric machines.

SA Iqbal Qadri said that five proposals have been included in this bill and appreciated the law minister over tremendous work on finalising its draft. He demanded level playing field for all with less financial burden who wanted to participate in the elections. Sahibzada Tariqullah said that it was good to give financial power and authority to the Election Commission and it was now its responsibility to manage elections affairs in transparent manner.

Mahmood Achakzai said it was unfortunate several prime ministers had been removed but they all would have to ensure supremacy of the parliament. It was unfortunate that people’s will had not been respected, he said, adding that the parliament should be strengthened and each and every decision should be taken here.

“All of us should take oath to strengthen parliament and those judges refusing Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) should be given honour, they should be declared hero,” he maintained. He said that salute those who sacrificed for democracy and only admit the authority of those who accept the authority of the constitution.

Naeema Kishwar said that passage of this bill was crucial for free and fair elections and supported the proposal of Constitutional Amendments along with this bill. The use of latest technology would be made in the upcoming elections. However, the electronic voting machines should be used on pilot basis to avoid any risk of manipulation, she added.

She also suggested the delimitation of the constituencies keeping in view the latest census and ensuring 100 percent women participation. However, she was of the view that the Election Commission cannot force any one to cast their votes. The National Assembly met for two hours and 25 minutes, while the sitting remained suspended for 33 minutes due to lack of quorum.

As many as 53 (15%) lawmakers were present at the outset and 72 (21%) at the adjournment of the sitting. Six lawmakers took part in the discussion on the Elections Bill, 2017 that continued for an hour and 35 minutes. The House adopted two separate motions to suspend its Friday’s business except the Elections Bill and the upcoming sitting’s (Monday’s) Question Hour.