Amid opposition uproar, the Joint Sitting of the Parliament on Wednesday passed the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 with majority votes by rejecting all amendments proposed by the opposition benches.
Advisor the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Zaheer-un-Din Babar Awan piloted the bill in the House and the motion to consider the bill was passed with majority vote. A total of 221 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion while 203 lawmakers opposed it.
Later, the Parliament passed the legislative proposal which pertains to fair, free and transparent election through utilization of technology and modern gadgets.
The bill is also aimed at granting voting rights to the Overseas Pakistanis which may only be possible by vesting exclusive authority in ECP with technical assistance of NADRA and other agencies.
It also asks to procure electronic voting machines (EVMs) for casting of votes in general elections. Amendments were sought in section 94 and 103 of the Election Act, 2017 to achieve the aforesaid objectives.
Majlis-e-Shoora passed the amendments moved by Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Babar Awan while the amendments moved by MNA Mohsin Dawar, Senator Taj Haider and Senator Mushtaq Ahmed were rejected by the House.
The joint session of Parliament convened on Wednesday as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) government looks to legislate more than two dozen crucial bills, including the one on electoral reforms.
As many as 56 points on the agenda including bills relating to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis, and others would be presented during the joint session of the Parliament.
Addressing the floor, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said that he had written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser regarding his grievances about the haste in passing the bills without a consensus. "But we received no answer from you," he said.
He further said that the government wants to bulldoze bills, saying that it spoiled the traditions of parliament.
Terming the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) ‘Evil Vicious Machine’, the opposition leader said that the elected government wants to extend its term through EVM, as they cannot go to the people.
Shehbaz told the speaker that the people will not forgive him if he allowed the bills to be bulldozed in today's session.
Govt wants to wash away blackness of the past: Qureshi
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his address said that the parliament will pass laws to make the electoral process clean and transparent. The minister said that the government wants to wash away the blackness of the past.
Qureshi added that the government followed all legislation procedures, adding that they had consulted opposition members, but they paid no attention.
Responding to Shehbaz’s 'Evil Vicious Machine’ statement, the minister said that EVM is not vicious but will bury all evil designs and thoughts.
'Will approach court over “one-sided" electoral reforms'
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the speaker must "respect his own chair" and "respect his own position".
Criticising the government's "one-sided" electoral reforms, Bilawal said that if the government continued in the manner it was proceeding in, then the opposition would not accept the results of the next election if the EVM bill is bulldozed.
He said that they will approach the court over the government's "one-sided" electoral reforms.
Last week, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had announced that the joint sitting scheduled for November 11, had been postponed, saying that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was again asked to get in touch with the opposition so that a bill on electoral reforms could be introduced.
"We hope that the opposition will seriously consider these crucial reforms so that we can come up with a strategy for the country's future," he said, adding that the government will not back down from poll reforms until this happens.
This article was first published on Nov 17 2021 in Business Recorder