Electoral reforms: ECP officials walk out from panel meeting

Secretary Babar Yaqoob was offended by PTI legislator’s remarks


Danish Hussain March 03, 2017
Secretary Babar Yaqoob was offended by PTI legislator’s remarks . PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: Election Commission officials on Thursday preferred to walk out of a crucial parliamentary committee meeting instead of answering questions regarding the current policy of ad-hocism in the electoral body and appointment of junior officers as provincial election commissioners in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

The proceedings of the 77th meeting of the sub-committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms came to an abrupt end on Thursday after ECP officials headed by their secretary Babar Yaqoob staged a walkout when a PTI legislator pointed towards the mismanaged affairs of the electoral body and questioned the motives behind delay in appointment of election commissioners in provinces on a permanent basis.

After drawing attention towards the issue, the PTI legislator, Dr Shireen Mazari, commented that ‘if the ECP was preparing to rig the next general elections by keeping the top slots in provinces vacant deliberately’.

The comment offended the ECP secretary who after recording his protest walked out of the room despite Dr Mazari offering an apology for her comment.

The situation forced PTI senator Syed Shibli Faraz — who is also a member of the parliamentary committee — to move a privilege motion against the secretary ECP. The meeting of the sub-committee was headed by federal law minister Zahid Hamid.

In his privilege motion, Faraz wrote that “during the meeting, one of the members passed a comment due to which the Secretary ECP was offended. The member who made the comment instantly tendered an apology. However, secretary and his staff walked out of the committee room.”

By walking out from the committee, the motion reads, the ECP secretary has breached the privilege of the members present and the committee as a whole.

The Provincial Election Commissioners of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan were vacant until last week. Now as a stop gap arrangement additional charges of provincial election commissioners in K-P and Punjab had been given to junior officers for three month. While the PEC of Balochistan has been appointed on a permanent basis.

During the proceedings of the meeting, Law minister Zahid Hamid asked the members to refrain from commenting about affairs of the ECP as mandate of the parliamentary committee was to fine-tune the existing election laws. However, PTI legislators objected to it.

During the meeting, a sub-committee of the parliamentary committee headed by PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi also presented a report on the right to vote to some 7 million overseas Pakistanis. Some government members expressed their reservations over the voting mechanism suggested for the overseas Pakistanis in the report.

The meeting decided to fine tune the suggested mechanism within two weeks.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Arif Alvi said the government was intentionally raising objections in a bid to avoid ensuring the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis in next general elections.

He said within two weeks in consultation with NADRA and ECP technical issues would be resolved in vote casting mechanism suggested in the sub-committee’s report.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2017.

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