Parliament approves use of EVMs, voting rights to overseas Pakistanis amid ruckus
Parliament approves use of EVMs, voting rights to overseas Pakistanis amid ruckus
Prime Minister Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Amid a ruckus, the joint session of parliament on Wednesday ended with the House passing 33 bills, including controversial amendments in the Election Act, and deferring one bill.

The bills that were passed also included two of the opposition and the deferred bill was focused on election reforms.

The regular agenda of the joint sitting of the Parliament had 60 items including 29 bills and later on supplementary agenda was also introduced on the floor.

The government deferred one bill which had appeared on the order of the day and managed to pass the other 28 bills. Five bills that were introduced in the supplementary order were also passed by the joint sitting.

The Election (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 was among the few that were passed. It has been one of the most controversial bills of the government as it would enable the Election Commission of Pakistan to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in polls.

Another important bill that was passed was the International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Bill 2021. The opposition alleges that the bill was passed by the government to provide relief to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.

The SBP Banking Services Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2021 also sailed through with a majority.

Shehbaz slams NA Speaker

At the start of the joint sitting on Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif had asked National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to adjourn the session and make the government consult opposition parties on the electoral reforms bills.

Speaking on the floor of the parliament, Shehbaz said that it was imperative that the bills were rejected by the House today, and added, “Today is an important day in the parliamentary history of Pakistan.”

Taking a jibe at NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, the PML-N leader said that the PTI government did not want to consult the opposition on the electoral reforms.

“The government and its allies want to bulldoze the bills, and if you allowed this to happen, the history will never forgive you,” Shehbaz told speaker NA.

Allies of the PTI were not on the same, and this is why the government had postponed the last session. “It was only a ploy to buy time,” Shehbaz alleged.

The PML-N leader said that the government was trying to introduce EVMs so they could rig the next general elections.

“Through machines, the government is aiming to extend its tenure, and the opposition will not let it happen.”

PTI wants to save next elections from rigging: FM

Rejecting that the reforms were ‘black laws’, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that PTI was trying to save the next elections from rigging.

Lambasting the opposition leader, Qureshi said that EVMs are not evil but they will help uncover the evil and vicious designs to rig the elections. We are determined to ensure transparency in elections,” FM Qureshi told the floor.

The minister rejected the notion that the government wanted to bulldoze legislation. He claimed that the government did consult the opposition to address its reservations but, “you didn’t pay attention.”

“Shehbaz stated that the government wanted to introduce a black law. The government actually wants to wash away the blackness of the past.”

Bilawal to move courts against PTI’s electoral reforms

“You should respect the chair of the National Assembly speaker and stand by your words,” Bilawal told Asad Qaiser.

Criticising the speaker, he said that Asad should have consulted the opposition parties, and his [Asad Qaiser’s] office should not have been used by PTI.

“The government wants to pass electoral reforms forcefully,” he added.

“We will reject the next elections from today if the EVM bill is passed,” said Bilawal while announcing that he would move the courts against PTI’s electoral reforms.

“Let us sit and talk. What is the hurry?” Bilawal asked the government benches.

The joint session of the parliament was convened by President Arif Alvi. These electoral reform bills will pave the way for the electronic voting machines to be used in the next general elections.

Meanwhile, JUI-F leader Asad Mahmood reminded the National Assembly speaker that the opposition was willing to talk to the government on the bills.

“The government today is laying the foundations of anarchy,” said Mahmood. He also lashed out at Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi for giving the impression that the opposition was against electoral reforms.

“We are shouting on the floor of house that we want to give recommendations on the bills,” said Mahmood. He also said that ministers should not act as the opposition’s representatives as they can speak for their parties and people.

Number game

Surprisingly, ahead of the session, the party position showed that PTI and its coalition parties only have a lead of two votes in the joint session. Out of the 440 members, 221 make up the treasury benches and 219 opposition.

Treasury benches include 183 legislators from PTI, 10 from MQM, 14 from BAP, six from PML-Q, four from GDA, two independent candidates and one each from Awami Muslim League and Jamhoori Watan Party.

The opposition’s total strength in the joint sitting is 219— 99 members of PML-N, 77 of PPP, 21 from MMA, six of BNP, two each of National Party and PkMAP, three from ANP and six legislators of Dilawar Khan group.

Confident government

Speaking to the media outside the Parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that when a player enters the field he is ready to face any challenge, and tries to do better than his opponent.

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