The government on Wednesday moved a constitutional amendment bill (the 20th Amendment) in an attempt to provide legal cover to the actions of the chief election commissioner (CEC) during the time when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was incomplete. The move will give legal cover to over 28 members of parliament and provincial assemblies who were elected after the passage of the 18th Amendment in April 2010.
The 18th Amendment directed the government to appoint a permanent election commission body comprising the CEC and one retired High Court judge from each of the four provinces.
The government appointed four retired High Court judges as members of the ECP last year. However, the posts remained vacant from April 2010 – when the amendment was passed – till their appointment in June 2011. During this period by-elections were held for a number of parliamentary seats, despite the ECP being virtually incomplete.
If passed, the amendment will bring an end to the uncertainty hanging over the fate of over a dozen public representatives elected during that period.
Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah moved the bill suggesting an amendment in Article 219 of the Constitution that relates to “duties of the commission” through insertion of a new provision: “Provided always that till such time the members of the commission are appointed in accordance with Article 218 (2), the commissioner shall remain charged with the duties enumerated in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this Article.”
Commission for Women
National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza deferred a piece of legislation for the setting up of a National Commission for Women after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) requested for some time enabling them to introduce some amendments.
“Tomorrow would be an important day in history and we do not know what will happen, therefore, this bill should be passed right now,” Haider Abbas Rizvi from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said in a direct reference to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s appearance before the Supreme Court in a contempt case.
Rizvi also said that once a bill reaches the lower house from the relevant standing committee where representatives of every political party have given their input, there should not be any delay in its presentation.
The argument of passing the women’s bill without any further delay was supported by almost every female member except the PML-N.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2012.
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