Senators decry ECP on electoral reforms

ISLAMABAD:  The members of Senate on Tuesday criticized the observations of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) about the authority of the head of state regarding its proposed electoral reforms for conduct of free, fair and transparent elections.

Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP moved an adjournment motion against the statement by the ECP which said that the ECP had sole authority for framing laws for holding free, fair and transparent elections and that the approval by the president in this regard was a formality.

Senator Ghani claimed that the ECP was violating its constitutional limits under pressure from a section of the media. He said that the ECP was taking decisions for which it had no powers.

Referring to a press release issued by the ECP, Senator Ghani said that it had been stated that the ECP had powers to take all necessary steps under Article 218/3 of the Constitution and that there was no need to seek an approval from the president.

He said that the sub-clause 3 of the article 218 stated that the ECP would take all necessary steps in accordance with the law to hold elections. However, he added that all the proposals framed by the ECP needed to be approved by the president and that the ECP’s powers were not limitless.

He said that the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms had worked hard to facilitate the ECP and the election commission delegation in the meeting with the committee had conceded that the proposal seeking thirty days’ period for scrutiny of the candidates needed constitutional amendment, which was impossible as the term of the national assembly was about to expire.

He said that some of the proposals forwarded by the ECP were  mere joke, while the newspapers were printing interviews of the ECP members.  Senator Ghani said that like judges, the ECP members could not interact with the media directly and they also could not meet with politicians.

He regretted that the parliament was being maligned for trying to protect criminals, dacoits and thieves but the parliamentarians were silent.

Senator Jaffer Iqbal Gujjar of PML-N partially agreed to the notion of Ghani, said that the every institution should remain in constitutional ambit and should not violate their powers given by the Constitution.

He expressed his apprehension that the government in the guise of standoff with the ECP wanted to postpone the general elections, adding that there was nothing wrong if the ECP blocked the entrance of corrupts and looters into the august house.

Jaffer went on saying that the ECP sent amended forms on February 23 to the government, but the later has yet to respond, adding the ECP should also not exceed its constitutional limits, however the government’s committee should have to meet with CEC and asked him to simplify the form so that the matter could be resolved amicably.

Senator Kazim Khan said that the role of media during the entire episode was quite strange, adding that Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was an honest person, however, he could not have the power to decide about someone whether or not he or she was a burglar and crook. He said that the Pholin Devi was a dacoit, but she became member of the parliament.

Abdul Haseeb Khan said that it was mandatory for the ECP to hold elections on time so as the democratic process could continue. He said there was no need to discuss the steps being taken by the ECP as casting doubts over the ECP?s intentions may be counterproductive.