Joint parliament session to discuss electoral reforms tomorrow

ISLAMABAD: A joint session of both Houses of the parliament will meet tomorrow to discuss the proposed electoral reforms, reports citing people familiar with the development said.

Babar Awan, the adviser to the prime minister on parliamentary affairs, said a summary for the session has already been sent to the president by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

The reports further said the MPs will discuss an ambitious legislative agenda during the session.

During the meeting, the government is expected to table bills on electoral reforms, including the introduction of electronic voting machines and e-voting facility for Pakistan nationals living abroad, and an ordinance concerning the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

In June, after the National Assembly approved the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) expressed severe concerns over some clauses in the bill, assessing that many proposed amendments may violate constitutional requirements.

The commission said it had already submitted its response to a parliamentary committee but regretted that it was not incorporated in the final draft.

The commission fears the proposed amendments will dilute its constitutional powers and shift them to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) which is part of the federal government and not an independent body like the ECP.

GOVERNMENT TO TAKE COALITION INTO CONFIDENCE

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to take the ruling coalition into confidence over the proposed reforms and the use of the EVMs in the 2023 general elections.

He had also decided to consult the opposition parties once the parliamentary party meeting gives its nod to the decision.

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an umbrella alliance of opposition parties, has demanded electoral reform to ensure “no role for the armed forces and [intelligence] agencies”.

At the time, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the cabinet was briefed on EVMs and e-voting. He said the prime minister had also given directions to Awan and his deputy, Ali Muhammad Khan, to brief the MPs over the bills.

Chaudhry also said a debate in the parliament between the opposition and the treasury benches would be welcomed.

“We welcome the discussion on electoral reforms. We are ready for talks with the opposition. Giving the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis is another good norm in the electoral reforms bill,” he had said.

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