To ensure transparent polls
— Baloch suggests increase in NA seats from Balochistan
— Shazia Mari demands more representation to women
The National Assembly on Monday held a debate on the Elections Bill, 2017, and the lawmakers recommended further amendments and measures to ensure free, fair and transparent elections so nobody can raise fingers on the election results.
The House had been discussing the Elections Bill since last Friday by suspending the routine agenda. Taking part in the debate, Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that Balochistan, with 44 percent of the total land area of Pakistan, had 14 directly elected members while three were indirectly elected from the province.
He said that he was elected from a constituency with an area of 65,000 square kilometres and it was very difficult for him to reach every person in the constituency because of the large area. “Due to law and order situation, it is essential for the parliament members to keep a convoy of four vehicles while traveling and bear the expenditure of guards and other personnel who accompany the convoy,” he said.
He suggested that number of parliamentarians from Balochistan should be increased and one member each should be elected from 32 districts of Balochistan. Large areas with small populations should be given more representation in the National Assembly, he said, adding polling stations in Balochistan were as far away as 30 kilometres from each other.
Baloch said that introduction of biometric system would be problematic in Balochistan which lacked facilities of electricity. He said that it was totally wrong that intelligence agencies could manipulate elections in Pakistan. Each district with population of millions of people had only staff of three to four persons from intelligence agencies, he said.
He said that despite all the speculations; at the end voters choose their governments and nobody else. Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah asked for an explanation from the government over recent issuance of Rs 30 billion for development projects and said it was desire of his party that the parliament should complete its tenure and sanity prevails on all sides on the political matters.
Ghous Buksh Mehr said that the returning officers should be given more authority to ensure fairness in the elections. MQM leader Farooq Sattar said it took the parliament three years to prepare the new election law with the aim to end adhocism in the election system. He said that MQM wanted that people from lower middle classes should get a representation in the Senate and the National Assembly.
He said that influence of money in politics should be reduced to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. “Cause of all ailments in elections is the use of massive amounts of money. A limit should be imposed on spending by candidates and their parties,” he said. “We need to take democracy to the doorstep of the people so that every person participates in the democratic process,” he said.
He also stressed upon agricultural reforms so that farmers, labourers and small farmers could also take part in elections. He said that the local governments should not be just showpieces and administrative and financial powers should be given to them. If provinces refuse to hand over powers to local governments then a penalty should be imposed on them, Sattar said and demanded that overseas Pakistanis should be given the right to vote.
Minister Aftab Sheikh said the prime minister announced a development package of Rs 25 billion for Karachi and five billion rupees for development projects of Hyderabad. The prime minister approved a development package for different schemes of the provinces which allocate matching grants for the federal projects, he noted.
He said that Punjab and Balochistan came up with matching grants and the federal government projects were started in the provinces. Shazia Mari said that the new election law was the result of strenuous efforts made by the National Assembly in three years. She called for more representation to women in the Senate and the National Assembly.