The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved two important ordinances that will enable the polls supervisory body to introduce electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections and also take measures to allow the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes.
“One of the ordinances will enable the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to use the EVMs in elections while the other will empower it to take steps to give voting right to the overseas Pakistanis,” said Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry after the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The minister said the government's electoral reforms consisted of four parts, including the use of EVMs, introducing e-voting for the overseas Pakistanis, biometric and legislation.
“The EVMs have been developed in the country and the government has unveiled its legislation agenda for the purpose, while work is underway on biometric and e-voting mechanism,” he added.
According to the minister, Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz and Minister for Information Technology Syed Aminul Haq gave a briefing to the participants with regard to the EVM and e-voting.
The minister said the PTI considers overseas Pakistanis as much Pakistani as those living in the country but major opposition parties – the PPP and the PML-N – are running away from electoral reforms and are reluctant to give voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis.
Referring to the ECP’s decision of recounting of votes polled during last week’s by-election at NA-249 constituency in Karachi, the minister reiterated his party’s demand for a re-polling instead of re-counting “as the winning candidate got only five per cent of the total vote cast”.
Responding to a question, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan's upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia will greatly contribute to expanding bilateral ties.
“The cabinet has approved the establishment of the Pak-Saudi Supreme Coordination Council for which a memorandum of understanding was signed during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan.”
He said the council will be activated and greatly help in promoting bilateral ties and cooperation while getting over hurdles. Newly launched one billion trees drive in Saudi Arabia would give employment opportunities to the Pakistani labourers in the kingdom.
To a question, he said after the failure of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – originally an 11-party opposition alliance – the politics of the PML-N and the PPP is also in a blind alley.
Talking with reference to proscription of politico-religious Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), he said the attitude and work of the banned party was against the Islamic teachings, the Constitution and the law.
“That is why the government proscribed the party,” he claimed.
He said the judiciary and the ECP should now play their role in this regard. “The ECP should explain how the party was registered in the name of a person sitting in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”
Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan has made it clear that he will not compromise on the blasphemy laws despite last week’s resolution of the European Parliament.
“There will be no compromise on the honor of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The EU resolution will not affect Pakistan's internal affairs,” he added.
Speaking about the Covid-19 situation in the country, Chaudhry said the Covid-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) are not being implemented in letter and spirit in Karachi and the Sindh government should look into it.
He warned that if coronavirus SOPs were not implemented properly in the megacity, the effect on the rest of the country would be felt very fast. He revealed the cabinet has approved the Sindh government's request for deployment of the army to ensure implementation of the SOPs.
The information minister lauded the media’s role in raising awareness and giving a countrywide breakdown with regard to compliance with the SOPs.
Chaudhry said Islamabad is ahead with 88% compliance, followed by Azad Jammu and Kashmir with 82%, Punjab with 69%, Gilgit Baltistan with 67% and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 66%. He lamented that it is Sindh, especially in Karachi where the SOPs are least implemented.
“The government is worried about the Covid-19 situation in Karachi as the country's supply chain starts from the city and the Sindh government has not been successful in implementing the SOPs.”
He, however, hoped that a lockdown during the Eidul Fitr holidays would stabilize the situation.
Chaudhry said the cabinet has approved a 90-day remission to jail prisoners on the occasion of the Eid. “However, this remission will not apply to those convicted for heinous crimes.”
He said succession certificates are being provided to overseas Pakistanis through the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and in the first phase, desks are being set up in twenty-four embassies.
“The cabinet has decided to issue a commemorative coin to pay tribute to the NED University Karachi on 100 years of its establishment. The cabinet has also decided to waive 10% withholding tax on private sector bids in the Pakistan Railways,” he adde