ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution against a legal provision enacted through the Elections Bill, 2017 that had allowed a person ineligible to contest elections to become an office-bearer of a political party.
The opposition parties had suffered a humiliating defeat in the House – where their combined strength outnumbers the treasury members – when they failed to stop the government from getting passed the provision at the time of the adoption of the bill.
Jointly moved by several opposition groups, the resolution against the law that made it possible for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to get elected as President of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was passed with 52 votes in favour. A total of 28 members from the PML-N and its allies voted against it. A senator from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas also voted against the opposition-sponsored resolution, while another one abstained during the voting.
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The controversial provision, inculcated as Section 203 in the Elections Bill, changed Section 5 of the Political Parties Order of 2002, which barred any person who did not qualify to become a member of Parliament from becoming an office-bearer of a political party.
Moved by Leader of Opposition Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the resolution reads: “That this house resolves that: Whereas an anomalous position has arisen in Pakistan wherein a person disqualified to be a member of Parliament can become office-bearer, including the head of any political party.
"And whereas this may enable an unelected person who gives up the citizenship of Pakistan, or who is declared to be of unsound mind by a court of law, or who is otherwise disqualified by a court of competent jurisdiction to be a member of Parliament to determine the policies and take decisions of any party, including the majority party, from outside Parliament. And whereas Parliament itself is thus exposed to becoming hostage to a person who himself is barred from entering it.
“Now, therefore, this House resolves that a person who not eligible to be elected as a member of Parliament on account of being disqualified to be a member of Parliament should not become office-bearer of any political party.”
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Law Minister Zahid Hamid opposed the resolution, saying the issue had been debated when the bill was passed. He said since the president had also signed the bill after Parliament adopted it, it had become law now. “A law cannot be changed through any resolution,” he remarked.
On the law minister’s opposition, the chairman put it for a vote which the opposition won.
For getting the resolution adopted, the opposition withdrew from discussion on four important agenda items that had been proposed by it. These related to disapproval of the recently conducted census, an Indus River System Authority report on water crisis, non-appointment of the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology in nine months and increasing incidents of disappearances in the country with impunity.
Interestingly, all these items were part of the agenda the opposition had given in its requisition to summon the session. The session that began on Tuesday was prorogued sine die.