By Mehtab Haider
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar has said the draft election bill 2017 has proposed to grant administrative and financial powers to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and bind the election tribunal to conduct day-to-day hearing without seeking adjournment on writ petitions against any wrongdoings on the election process.
Under the reform package the political parties are bound to award 5 percent tickets to women. To a query regarding consideration of any proposal for slapping ban on banned outfits from participating in the polls, the minister said although it was sensitive subject but they could not impose discriminatory restrictions. He added that the government was implementing all envisaged points under the NAP which would help in overcoming extremism.
“We have proposed changes in election laws after 40 years with the purpose to hold upcoming elections under fresh laws in free and fair manner. The draft law also proposes synchronising wealth statement and empowering the ECP to scrutinise returns filed by parliamentarians. The ECP is proposed to be empowered to take disciplinary action against deputed officials on allegations of rigging,” Ishaq Dar said while briefing reporters on the draft election bill 2017 along with Minister for Law Zahid Hamid and Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman here at FBR’s headquarters on Wednesday.
The law minister said the parliamentary committee could not take decision on granting rights to overseas Pakistanis, biometric verification and using electronic voting machines. He said the proposed rules were also framed by the parliamentary committee in order to ensure that all regulations should be in align with the spirit of laws approved by the Parliament.
To another query regarding regulatory bodies, the minister said there were three aspects related to regulatory bodies including laws, policies and administration and the government brought them under the administrative control of line ministries through a notification.
He said regulatory bodies would continue to perform their role as regulator and in accordance with the law but the administrative matters would now be tackled by the line ministries instead of Cabinet Division. He argued that the change in administrative control was grossly misunderstood by some politicians and media persons. He said there was no proposal under consideration to withdraw powers of Nepra for tariff determination and the role of Ogra would also remain the same as they were calculating pricing of POL products and then forward to Ministry of Finance for taking final decision by the PM.
When asked about delimitation of constituencies in the aftermath of upcoming population census, Dar replied that it would require constitutional amendment which could be discussed at later stage. Regarding differences within the ranks of Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms, the minister said that it was pending issue related to declaring the election null and void by the ECP if in any constituency the women polling votes would be less than 10 percent out of total polled votes. Some members proposed that this ratio should be fixed at 5 percent and some argued that there should be no such restrictions, he said, and added that now this decision could be taken through consensus or through majority voting.
He said the draft election package would be tabled before Senate on Thursday (today) as 30 days would be given to all walks of life to give their suggestions to make it best future unified law for holding elections.
Minister for Law Zahid Hamid said that the proposed law would grant administrative and financial powers to the ECP as it would be in position to take disciplinary action in case of committing rigging by any deputed official for holding the election process. The ECP will be bound to unveil action plan six months before the elections as the commission would place result based management (RBM) system. The ECP officials and polling staff would take oath and the polling scheme period would be slashed down from 60 days to 35 days. On the polling day, camera will be installed and the returning officers will have to follow fixed formula for printing of ballot papers.
The minister said that in case of tie whereby candidates get equal votes then toss would be done to give equal and half tenure to both the candidates. When asked about electronic voting machines (EVM), the minister said its financial impact and security of used equipment was needed to be considered as they asked three displayer parties to submit list of their suppliers in order to ensure security.
To another query regarding four demands of the PPP, the minister said the first demand was inclusion of western route into CPEC on which the government assured them that it was part of the CPEC route. The PPP demanded revival of Parliamentary Committee on National Security and that could also be considered by the government, he added.
Regarding third demand of appointing permanent Foreign Minister, the minister said that Sartaj Aziz was performing as advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs but he would have to be elected as MNA or Senator for becoming federal minister but for all practical purpose he was performing well.
On fourth demand of investigating Panama case, the minister said this demand became infectious because this case had now been landed into the apex court of the country. “Doors are not closed in politics so we are ready to take PPP into confidence,” the minister concluded.