ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to boycott the proceedings of the parliamentary panel on electoral reforms after being accused by a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker of preparing to rig the coming general elections.
Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza has written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to convey the decision and seek action against the PTI legislators who, in his view, had violated the rules of procedure of the committee and principle of confidentiality, ECP Director Public Relations Altaf Ahmad told Dawn.
ECP Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad and other officials walked out of a meeting of a subcommittee of the parliamentary panel on March 2 after a PTI lawmaker accused the commission of preparing to rig 2018’s general elections while questioning ‘replacement’ of provincial election commissioners.
Senator Shibli Faraz of the PTI, a member of the committee, later submitted a privilege motion against the ECP’s secretary and other officials to the Senate secretariat, saying that the privilege of the committee members had been breached by the walkout.
The secretary brought the matter to the notice of the commission for a decision whether the officials should attend the committee’s meetings in future, which has now decided that they will not.
An official said that the CEC letter stated that top officials of the commission had attended 20 meetings of the main committee led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and 78 meetings of the sub-committee headed by Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
“We were doing it in good faith in the interest of a meaningful reform in electoral framework. We were not doing it to be insulted, ridiculed, taunted and blamed and that too on the basis of routine procedures,” he said.
He said the PTI’s member of the National Assembly did not know that three provincial election commissioners had retired, warranting their immediate placement.
Meanwhile, the ECP has sharply reacted to the remarks of PTI chief Imran Khan that it is doing nothing to reform electoral laws. “He is one of them who are supposed to bring legislation for electoral reforms. The statement of Mr Imran Khan depicts a serious ignorance about lawmaking process, which is lamented and strongly condemned,” it said in a statement.
It said that the ECP was cognizant of its duties and had constituted a legal framework committee to conduct research and deliberate on electoral reforms.
The commission said that it had presented the first draft of electoral reforms to the parliamentary committee in Aug 2014. Besides, it has also provided comparative statements of the existing and proposed legislation, modalities for introduction of electoral technology and proposals for out of country voting for expatriate Pakistanis.
It pointed out that legislation was not the mandate of the ECP but the exclusive mandate of the parliament under the constitution.