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Cabinet approves ordinances to ensure transparency in polls, voting right to expatriates

Written by The Frontier Post

Muhammad Asad

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Tuesday approved two important ordinances as part of the electoral reforms process to ensure transparency in elections and grant right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis by introduction of modern technology.

Briefing the media about the decisions taken in the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said one ordinance would enable the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections and the other would empower it to take steps to give voting right to the overseas Pakistanis.

The minister said the government’s electoral reforms consisted of four parts, including use of EVMs, e-voting for the overseas Pakistanis, biometric and legislation.

He said EVMs had been developed and the government had unveiled its legislation agenda for the purpose, while work was underway on biometric and e-voting mechanism.

The cabinet was given a briefing by Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz and Information Technology Minister Syed Aminul Haq with reference to electronic voting machines and e-voting.

He said the cabinet was informed that the lowest implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) related to the coronavirus was recorded in Sindh, especially in Karachi. The situation in the province, particularly in Karachi, was a matter of concern, and if the SOPs were not followed it could further worsen and affect the supply chain upcountry.

Islamabad, he said, was at the forefront in implementation of the SOPs, while there was stability and decrease in COVID-19 cases in Punjab and Khyber Pakthunkhwa due to better compliance of the precautionary measures.

He pointed out that the SOPs implementation had significantly improved with the involvement of military personnel.

The cabinet, he said, approved the deployment of the army personnel in Sindh, accepting the provincial government’s request. The situation would have been better in that province had its government already opted for the army personnel’s deployment.

The minister said during the last 24 hours, 161 persons had passed away due to the coronavirus, majority of them in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whereas 3,377 were diagnosed with the virus, rising the number of total active cases to 86,151.

He said the lockdown during Eid holidays was aimed at curbing the rise in cases and hoped that the Sindh government would pay special attention to the implementation of SOPs and with the deployment of army personnel, things would hopefully improve there.

Fawad said the cabinet endorsed the decision of forming a committee to settle matters with the Independent Power Producers (IPPs). No decision had yet been taken regarding payment to the IPPs, he added.

The cabinet, he said, also endorsed decisions taken by its Economic Coordination Committee on April 28.  

Referring to the ECP’s decision of recounting of votes in the NA-249 Karachi by-election, Fawad said re-polling should be held in the constituency because the winning candidate would be getting hardly 5 percent votes. It was a matter of concern that anyone elected by only 5 percent votes, would represent the constituents in the assembly. It was a universal truth that rigging had been done in the bye-election, that was why the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dem-anded re-polling, he added.

Citing the example of Election Commission of India, he said the ECP should ensure implementation of the corona SOPs during bye-elections.

About Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz, he regretted that unfortunately an immature political leadership had been imposed in the country, who did not know about the importance of legislature. Likewise, he mentioned that Shehbaz Sharif and Ahsan Iqbal wanted the Election Commission to reform the electoral process on its own.

He said both the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were reluctant to give voting right to the overseas Pakistanis. If they did not support the reforms, the government would move ahead in ensuring the participation of expats in the election process keeping in view their key role in Pakistan’s economy, he stressed.    

He pointed out that how the Parliament could be made irrelevant and the departments concerned like the national Accountability Bureau, ECP and others were allowed to do legislation on their own. Prime Minister Imran Khan was leading the initiative of electoral reforms through the Parliament, he added.

The minister asserted that like the demise of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and end of the politics of their leaders Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, the politics of PPP and PML-N was also going to end.

Fawad said initially 24 desks were being set up at the foreign embassies for issuance of inheritance certificates, and the overseas Pakistanis would not be required to come to Pakistan for the purpose.

He said the cabinet approved establishment of the Pak-Saudi Supreme Coordination Council for which a memorandum of understanding was signed during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to Pakistan. This council, he said, would be activated and greatly help in promotion of bilateral relations and cooperation, removing hurdles in its way.

The launching of one billion tree drive in Saudi Arabia would give an opportunity to the Pakistani labour, the minister said.                

The cabinet, he said, approved the issuance of a commemorative coin on the completion of 100 years of NED University Karachi, one of the best higher education institutions in the region.

The minister said a 90-day remission had been given to the prisoners on the occasion of Eidul Fitr while the concession would not be available to those involved in serious crimes like terrorism or espionage.

Replying to media persons’ questions, the information minister said out of 49 point electoral reforms document, all the political parties had consensus on 40 points. He said the opposition parties raised the objection that they were invited by the prime minister for talks on the electoral reforms. On it, he said, the prime minister wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker asking him to start formal dialogue with the opposition on the electoral reforms.

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