ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday passed a private member bill to exempt electoral candidates from personal appearing before returning officers at the time of filing nomination papers for the upcoming general election.
The hand-written bill moved by opposition member Zahid Hamid of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was adopted unanimously to rescind the amendment in the Representation of People Act, 1976 made by former President Gen (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.
The bill was unanimously approved as Law Minister Farooq H Naek said the amendment was made by former military dictator Musharraf to block former Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Benazir Bhutto and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who were both in self-imposed exile at the time, from contesting elections.
“With this amendment in the ROPA 1976, the act will be restored to its previous position enabling the candidates to avoid coming to the returning officer if there is any threat or other reason,” Naek said.
He said that, in the current circumstances, there was fear of attacks on political leaders in the country. Therefore, the law will facilitate the candidates to send their proposers, seconders or any other nominee to file nomination papers on their behalf.
“After this amendment becomes an act, personal appearance of a candidate will not be mandatory. If any person desires to go to file his or her nomination papers, he can but if they do not desire, they cannot be compelled to appear in person at the time of filing the nomination papers,” he explained.
Zahid Hamid had pleaded to amend the Representation of People Act so that political leaders, or those who receive threats from extremists and terrorists, are exempted from personal appearance at the time of filing the nomination papers.
PML-N member Naseer Bhutta described the amendment as important while MQM member Waseem Akhter and Waqas Akram also supported it.