National assembly passes ‘the National Accountability Bureau (Second Amendment), Bill, 2021’
NA passes ‘The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022’ abolishing use of EVMs in election
ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
The National Assembly on Thursday passed “The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022” to conduct pilot projects in bye-elections before using I-Voting and Electronic Voting Machines in the general elections.
Speaking on the occasion in the House, the Law Minister Senator Chaudhry Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendment is aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.
He said overseas Pakistanis are precious asset of the country and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote.
Regarding use of Electronic Voting Machines, the Law Minister said we are not against use of technology, but we have concerns about misuse of technology as Results Transmission System had failed in last general elections to favour a particular political party.
He said the Election Commission of Pakistan had also expressed its inability to hold elections through I-Voting and EVMs in a short span of time and without proper homework.
He said two amendments are being brought to revive the Elections Act 2017, enabling the ECP to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.
Under the amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the Commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by Overseas Pakistanis in bye-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a House after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both Houses of the Parliament.
Under Amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for utilization of EVMs and biometric verification system in the bye-elections. The bill is expected to be sent to the Senate today (Friday).
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz Ahmed Khan has said the Assembly should complete its tenure and elections should be held on time.
Responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s remarks, he assured that the opposition will play its positive and constructive role in running affairs of the House.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking on the floor of the House, congratulated Raja Riaz Ahmed for becoming Leader of the Opposition.
He assured the Leader of the Opposition of his government’s full cooperation in running business of the House in an amicable manner.
The Prime Minister said the treasury benches will pay utmost attention to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition by burying the bad traditions of the past.
Responding to a Calling Attention Notice, Minister of State for Interior, Abdul Rehman Khan Kanju assured the House to make every possible effort for the maintenance of government accommodations in Sector G-6 and F-6 of Islamabad.
The National Assembly also passed “the National Accountability Bureau (Second Amendment), Bill, 2021” aimed at preventing the misuse of the law for political engineering and victimization opponents.
Highlighting salient features of the bill, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said the NAB law was used for suppressing the voice of political opponents. He said all the amendments ordered by the superior judiciary from time to time had been accommodated in the new Bill. He said NAB must complete inquiries within a period of six months.
According to the bill, the NAB deputy chairman would become the acting chairman following the top official’s retirement. If the deputy chairman is not available, any senior official would become the NAB’s acting chairman.
In addition, the incumbent chairman cannot be re-appointed.
The process to appoint a new chairman would begin two months prior to the retirement of the incumbent chairman and would be completed in 40 days, according to the bill. If the prime minister and leader of the opposition are unable to agree on an appointee, the matter would be referred to the parliamentary committee.
According to the bill, the parliamentary committee would then finalise the name for a new chairman within 30 days.
The bill also limits the accountability watchdog’s powers, removing federal and provincial tax matters from its domain as well as financial irregularities in any development project. In addition, the NAB would not be able to take action on any regulatory body’s decisions.
It further states that judges would be appointed in accountability courts for a three-year period and the relevant high court ‘s chief justice should be consulted for their removal. The courts would have to decide cases within a year.
Furthermore, the NAB would have to begin an investigation on a complaint within six months and present an arrested person before an accountability court within 24 hours. The anti-graft watchdog would have to ensure the availability of evidence prior to the arrest.
The period of remand would also be reduced from 90 days to 14 days. If convicted, a person would be able to file an appeal till 30 days instead of 10 days previously.
The bill also seeks to stop NAB officials from issuing statements before a reference has been filed, the punishment for violating which would be one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs100,000. The punishment for filing a false reference would be up to 5-years imprisonment. The bill is expected to be sent to the Senate today (Friday).