ISLAMABAD: The joint session of Parliament on Wednesday passed the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 envisaging use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections.
The joint sitting also passed the International Court of Justice ICJ (Review and Reconsideration) Bill, 2020 to give right of appeal to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav in the light of ICJ directives.
Following a walkout of the opposition members after passage of the two bills, the government got remaining over 32 other bills easily passed. However, some of opposition members returned to the House to move their amendments.
During the joint session of Parliament on Wednesday, the opposition members gathered in front of the Speaker’s dais raising slogans ‘Cheeni Chor, Atta Chor, Go Niazi Go and rigging, rigging’ while tearing copies of bills and order of the day.
The Speaker got angered when the PPP parliamentarian Abdul Qadar Mandokhel reached in front of his dais and started speaking loudly. The speaker while asking the member to remain within his limits, also directed the security staff to move the opposition member out of the House.
The opposition staged walkout of the House in protest. Amid the pandemonium in the House, the Sargent-at-Arms took Prime Minister Imran Khan in protective cordon.
A ruckus broke out when Adviser to Prime Minister Babar Awan presented item No 3 on the list of the day’s orders that pertained to the Bill further to amend the Elections Act, 2017 [The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021].
The opposition MNAs demanded the NA Speaker to let PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speak, with some of them gathering around the Speaker’s rostrum.
At one point, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser and PPP MNA Abdul Qadir Mandokhail engaged in an argument which was followed by the Speaker’s warning for the MNA to speak courteously.
However, when Mandokhail didn’t pay heed to the warning, the Speaker directed security to escort Mandokhail out of Parliament.
“Stay within your limits; I suspend you [from the session]” said Qaiser while addressing Mandokhail.
“Get him out,” he told the security. Qaiser asked Bilawal to take notice of the “way” his MNA behaved. “This is not the way to talk to the Speaker,” he said.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the opposition, which had been losing for three consecutive years, would disintegrate further after the joint sitting of the Parliament.
The minister threw up a challenge to Leader of Opposition Shehbaz Sharif to prove 223 on the side of the opposition; he would arrange meal for them and request PTI MNA Aamir Kayani to pay for it.
He was talking to media persons after the PTI and its allied parties meeting prior to the special meeting of the two chambers of Parliament here and after the eventful special session.
Prime Minister Imran thanked the allies as well as members of the National Assembly and Senators, who attended the meeting despite all the difficulties. Fawad said the party had shown full confidence in the prime minister. The minister lauded the lawmakers, who ensured their presence despite illness and compulsion.
The minister expressed hope that majority of both the houses would be present in the National Assembly and through it the bill on electoral reforms would be passed easily. He pointed out that both the laws are very important in which one bill is related to electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the other is related to the right of vote to Pakistanis living abroad.
He said that the prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have been committed to the passage of these two laws and today Pakistanis living abroad are witnesses that there is only one party that is standing up to defend their rights and that is Tehreek-e-Insaf. Both bills, he noted, are of utmost importance.
Later, the minister tweeted to grill the joint opposition and said, “The opposition, which consists of weak wrestlers, has been defeated, the process of disintegration within the opposition will accelerate after legislation”.
“The speeches of Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal were speeches of defeated politicians. It is already known who has the majority and who is fleeing now on,” the minister claimed.
Replying to questions from reporters after the session, Fawad said that it would be extremely difficult legally to challenge the electoral reforms legislation, adopted by two chambers of the Parliament in the Supreme Court, though it could still be challenged.
He congratulated the people and overseas Pakistanis on important legislation and noted with the approval of the relevant bill, 9 million overseas Pakistanis have got the right to vote. He maintained that every effort had been made to reach a consensus with the opposition on electoral reforms.
However, he charged, unfortunately, the attitude of the opposition remained negative as Nawaz Sharif & Co did not play cricket without their umpires. “I ask the opposition members if they are happy now,” he quipped, following their defeat in the session.
“The politics of those brought up in the lap of martial law, has always been on the shoulders of others. Today, it has been proved once again that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is the largest political party in the country. The eyes of those who are trying to bring a no-confidence motion should be opened today,” he asserted.
He claimed the leadership in the opposition is on decline, all are political dwarfs. He said that he had informed media in the morning that Bilawal and Shehbaz Sharif are defeated people.
About legislation, he said that special courts for women and children to be set up while the foundation of free and fair elections has been laid today. He maintained that the coalition partners and the government members stand like stone wall with Prime Minister.
The minister said that the mistreatment meted out to the NA Speaker had been paid back in the shape of a massive slap in the face of opposition by the special session.
About how PTI MNA Dr Amir Liaquat was brought to the Parliament, the minister said that he had brought him to the House along with Federal Minister Ali Zaidi.
To a question, he contended that conducting elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission, whereas legislation is enacted by Parliament as to how these were to be conducted. He said that all the 34 recommendations of the ECP had been incorporated and if MQM had any proposal that would also be entertained.
The minister said that the related bill was about use of new technology and it would continue to make progress. About the opposition’s claim that on the first bill, instead of mandatory 223 members, only 221 voted for, Fawad said that the Constitution prevails, as it says presence of members at a particular time would matter.
Earlier, the two controversial bills were passed by the joint sitting amid strong protest and sloganeering from members of the opposition parties which refused to accept counting results on motion seeking to move the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 by 221 to 203 votes of opposition members. The opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif while talking to newsmen after walkout said the counting was not correct but Speaker Asad Qaisar did not give any weight to their objection. “I myself and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the Speaker to run the House according to rules but all what happened was with his connivance,” Shehbaz said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that as per rules, the government needed 222 votes (simple majority of 442 members) in two houses for passage of bills at the joint session. As such, he said the opposition would challenge all the bills in the Supreme Court.
Murtaza Javed, later, told newsmen there were 211 not 221 government members present in the House but the Speaker went ahead with passage of bills with majority voice. The JUIF parliamentary leader, Asad Mahmood said the government was bent upon getting black laws passed by bulldozing the legislative business. He said that the government also wanted to get the bills passed, which were against Shariat. The rejection of result of counting caused a brawl in the House as ex-deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi and some other opposition members moved towards the treasury benches to monitor recounting. Murtaza Javed Abbasi and Abdul Qadar Mandokhel and government members including Murad Saeed, Senator Faisal Javed and others exchanged harsh words. However, any physical brawl was averted. The Speaker in a haste rejected amendments sought to be moved by the PPP Senator Sherry Rehman and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmad in the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021. Later, the House also ignored amendments moved by the JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad in the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill when the Senate Chairman was presiding over proceedings of the joint session.
The Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Bill, 2021 was passed in view of the fact that in recent years offences against women and children, especially pertaining to rape and child abuse, have increased manifold in the country. The bill on becoming Act of Parliament would provide for establishment of special courts and use of modern devices during investigation and trial of such offences against women and children. It would also envisage creation of anti-rape crisis cells in public hospitals to ensure prompt registration of FIR and medical examination. The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 would envisage chemical castration in cases of rape through court orders. It would also provide for punishment of 25-year imprisonment or imprisonment till the natural death. In case of gang rape, each person found guilty would be awarded death sentence. Meanwhile, at outset of proceedings, the Speaker on request of the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs deferred the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to give right of vote to overseas Pakistanis. The joint sitting of the Parliament also passed The Islamabad Capital Territory Charities Registration, Regulation and Facilitation Bill, 2021; The SBP Banking Services Corporation (Amendment) 8ill, 2021; The National College of Arts Institute Bill, 2021; The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 (amendment in Section 4); The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill,2021 (amendment in Section 7) ; The Hyderabad Institute for Technical and Management Sciences Bill,2021; The Islamabad Rent Restriction (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Corporate Restructuring Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Federal Public Service Commission (validation of Rules) Bill, 2021; The University of Islamabad Bill, 2021; The Loans for Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Purposes (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2021: The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Pakistan Academy of Letters (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Port Qasim Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Bill,2021; The Gwadar Port Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Maritime Security Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2021; The Privatization Commission (Amendment) Bill,2021; The COVID-19 (Prevention of Hoarding) Bill, 2021; The Al-Karm International Institute Bill, 2021 and The Islamabad Capital Territory Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, 2021. The joint sitting also took up supplementary agenda to pass the Unani, Ayurvedic and Homoeopathic Practitioners Act; The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill; The Provincial Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill; The Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and The Islamabad Capital Territory Food Safety Bill, 2021.
Earlier, taking the floor, the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif strongly opposed the use of EVMs in general elections.
Calling EVMs as Evil Vicious Machine, after the PTI government felt that RTS which he dubbed Road Transport System had been outdated, to rig general elections.
Shehbaz Sharif while addressing the Speaker said that he would also be equally responsible for passage of black laws and he would also face wrath of masses. He also asked the Speaker to use his powers and adjourn the joint sitting instead supporting the government in bulldozing controversial bills and other legislative business.
Shehbaz told the chair that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also opposed use of EVM in general elections after which the federal ministers at behest of the prime minister used threatening language against ECP.
Shehbaz Sharif also made it clear that the opposition was not against giving right of franchise to the overseas Pakistan but procedure being adopted for the purpose was not correct. Shehbaz Sharif told the Speaker that he himself wrote a letter to him (Shehbaz) this month seeking cooperation in passage of electoral reforms and other legislation in joint sitting.
“I also responded to your letter on November 14 but then the joint sitting was summoned overnight,” he said.
The opposition leader said that the opposition members had lost confidence in Asad Qaisar as custodian of the House. “If you feel any pressure, you should resign as PTI member and join the opposition. We will raise you on our shoulders,” he said.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government wanted to introduce a credible and transparent system for elections through legislation. Responding to the opposition leader, he said their electoral reforms are aimed at protecting the election process from being stolen asking the opposition parties to also vote in favour of the relevant bills.
The foreign minister pointed out that questions have always been raised on the elections held after 1970 and said that time has come to set the direction right and ensure the transparency and credibility of the electoral process. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government, on its part, time and again approached the opposition parties on electoral reforms. “We repeatedly tried to give demonstrations to the opposition parties on EVMs. He said the aim of introducing EVMs is to bury the evil design and vicious mindset of imposing the governments,” he said.
The foreign minister said the PTI and its allied parties are fully united and have the majority to get the electoral reforms bill passed. Qureshi said the expatriate Pakistanis are our precious asset and they will be involved in the decision making.
“The overseas Pakistanis who are sending remittances of billions of dollars to Pakistan should also get right to franchise,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said if the incumbent government had rejected the 2017 census, they would have to revert to 1998 census which could have resulted in reduction of Sindh seats in the National Assembly.
He said that the PTI government had decided to hold census in 2022 that is five years after 2017 census which would address grievances of the Sindh province. He said that three federating units including Balochistan, KP and Sindh had expressed reservations about 2017 population census. He, however, regretted that PMLN government just two days before end of its tenure deferred announcement of findings of census to the next government.
Rejecting objections of the PPP members to 2017 census in Sindh, the minister said that it was PMLN and PPP in the Center and in the province respectively when the census was held.
Responding to offer of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s offer that his party would support the government if it does away with price hike, he said the PPP top leader would ask the Sindh government to reduce prices of flour bag and allow use of Sehat Card in the Sindh province.
The session also passed a motion that joint sitting may consider and decide the fate of Council of Common Interests decision regarding population Census 2017, keeping in view the reservations of government of Sindh already circulated among members vide National Assembly Secretariat Letter on October 8, 2021.
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