Shehbaz to write to ECP about ‘unconstitutional’ electoral reforms bill

We will also take up ECP's concerns in the national assembly, sources say


Rameez Khan June 18, 2021
Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif addressing National Assembly session in Islamabad. PHOTO: RADIO PAKISTAN

LAHORE:

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif will write a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking a briefing on the government’s attempts “to encroach upon the ECP’s legal domain under the disguise of electoral reforms bill” and its legal implications, well-placed source in the PML-N revealed on Thursday.

Sources in the PML-N told The Express Tribune that in his letter, the PML-N stalwart will call on the ECP to invite all registered political parties to a briefing on the bill.

“A strategy has already been devised to intercept the bill in the Senate; however, it was important for all the political parties to know about the implications of this bill,” the sources said, adding that the government taking over the domain of ECP.

“Political parties will not let the government to manipulate the electoral process”.

The bill transgresses into ECP's domain, the source added. “We will also take up ECP's concerns in the national assembly”.

The ECP had already expressed its grave concerns over some clauses of the said bill, including voting rights to overseas and the use of electronic voting machines. “The ECP fears the bill will dilute its constitutional powers and shift them to NADRA which is under the ambit of federal government”.

Earlier in a statement, PML-N Secretary Information Maryam Aurangzeb had termed the PTI government's election amendments a damning attack on the constitution and the ECP.

Firing a broadside at Prime Minister Khan’s alleged sinister intentions behind introducing the bill, she had alleged that the premier was trying to impose a presidential system by abolishing the federal parliamentary system.

She alleged that the amendments violated the political and ideological guidelines laud out by the founding-father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the decisions of the apex court and the basic structure and concept of the Constitution.

“This is not a law but a national plan of electoral fraud. The PTI government, which is a product of fraud through RTS manipulation, wants to get rid of the public vote because they know after destroying the lives of the nation and the national economy they can never get in power through voting in a free and fair election,” she lambasted.

She pointed out that after the amendments, the government itself will become the Election Commission, adding that, “It will give the government the power to conduct and manipulate the election, and decide the winners on its whims and fancies”.

Marriyum said these amendments are aimed at curbing public awareness, ensuring public distrust of their constitutional and judicial rights and imposing an authoritarian rule.

Last week, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had said the government had passed two laws in the National Assembly to rig the next elections.

Iqbal said delimitation was made conditional on voter lists instead of population, while the voter lists were handed over to NADRA.

With this, the government will have control over the voting list. He said that the voter list is the property of the election commission, and it cannot be taken away from it.

A day earlier, on Wednesday, the ECP expressed severe concerns over some clauses in the electoral reforms bill passed by the National Assembly, including voting rights for overseas Pakistanis as well as use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

The electoral body said that many proposed amendments may violate constitutional requirements.

The ECP met under the chairmanship of Sikandar Sultan Raja to mull over the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2020.

The ECP said that the Ministry of IT audit stated that the National Database and Registration Authority’s (NADRA) i-voting system should not be used in the next general elections.

Expressing apprehensions, the ECP observed that its suggestions on the amendments to the bill had not been discussed in the standing committee concerned.

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