NA approves formation of panel to probe election rigging charges

Published: September 18, 2018
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National Assembly. PHOTO: FILE

National Assembly. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The lower house of parliament has unanimously approved a resolution for formation of a committee to be chaired by a member from the government side to probe into the opposition parties’ claim that the July 25, 2018 general election was rigged.

Taking a preemptive step to stop opposition’s attempts to hinder the proceedings of both houses of the parliament, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government on Tuesday presented the resolution in the National Assembly and later got it approved in consultation with the opposition parties.

As the session started, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi presented the resolution calling for “a parliamentary committee to make Terms of References (ToRs) and probe the alleged rigging in the general election”.

The house later unanimously passed the resolution presented again, by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan.

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While many members rose to comment on the issue, members of the treasury – Omar Ayub, Shafqat Mahmood and PTI chief whip Amir Dogar – were holding a meeting in the lobby with the Pakistan Muslim Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PTI) lawmakers.

PML-N’s Khurram Dastagir and PPP’s Shazia Marri demanded that the chairperson of the committee should be from the opposition side, but Qureshi reminded them of some committees formed during the tenure of the previous government with government members as their heads.

The opposition members also demanded that there should be equal strength of lawmakers from government and opposition. This demand was also accepted.

To a demand of PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal to make the committee authoritative, Qureshi replied that the government had nothing to hide and each and everything sought by the panel would be shared.

“The formation of such a panel was opposition’s demand and I assure this house that the committee will be transparent and empowered to probe independently,” he added.

Speech of Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also struck a chord with the ruling party members. Chaudhry gave credit of formation of the committee to Prime Minister Imran Khan – who was sitting in the house – but also reminded that the PML-N had rejected a similar demand by opposition in 2013.

PPP’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf welcomed the move.

Qureshi also stated that it was agreed that there would be no member from the Senate and that the committee would present its report as agreed. He said the chairperson would be appointed by the PM.

Later, Balochistan Awami Party-Mengal’s chief Akhtar Mengal sought clarification from the PM on his recent statement about giving citizenship to Afghanis and Bengalis living in the country.

Usually such questions are answered by the chief whip or the minister for parliamentary affairs but the PM stood up to answer the question and clarified that it was the issue of human rights.

“If their [refugees] issue is not resolved now, when will it be decided then? They can’t even be sent back,” he said, adding he was specifically talking about Bengalis residing in Karachi.

The PM also urged the opposition to give suggestions for a policy to deal with the issue, adding that the people whose generations were born in the country could not be forced to leave the country.

Dissatisfied with the answer, Mengal walked out of the house in protest.

Construction of dams

On a resolution about the construction of dams, the house witnessed ruckus with some opposition members protesting against the top judge’s recent statement about also building the Kalabagh dam and invoking Article 6 against dam opponents.

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PML-N’s Khawaja Asif said their government purchased land for the Diamer-Bhasha dam besides allocating Rs23 billion annual funding for it. He asked the government to increase the funding if they wanted to expedite construction of the dam, but he warned against politicisation of the issue.

Nawab Yousaf Talpur of the PPP also warned that Kalabagh dam was a controversial topic. He said they would support Diamer-Bhasha Dam but not the Kalabagh dam.

The foreign minister assured the house that there the government must respect all federating units. “I am telling you that there is no such plan [for building the Kalabagh dam],” he said.

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