NA approves Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 amid criticism from opposition

NA approves Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 amid criticism from opposition: The National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday approved the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017, rejecting Pakistan Tehreeke-e-Insaf’s (PTI) amendment recommendations. The NA received around 150 amendments proposed by political parties for the bill.

An amendment proposed by PTI, to allow overseas Pakistanis to vote in the general elections was rejected, which drew sharp criticism from the opposition party.

“Overseas Pakistanis have as much right to vote as those living in Pakistan,” PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood said while addressing the media outside the assembly. “Despite our efforts, no action was taken to register overseas Pakistanis.”

Mehmood further stated that biometric verification is absolutely necessary but ‘it was deliberately slowed down and no real efforts were made to take the process ahead.’

The PTI leader, in his media address, said biometric identification was ‘doable,’ as telecommunication companies and multinationals have managed to implement the process but the ruling party, despite its ‘tall claims’ didn’t do anything.

“We voted against the bill and boycotted it because the proposed amendments are vital for the elections,” the PTI leader said.

Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, in a media address outside the Parliament House said, “The National Assembly has passed a historic bill.”

“The positive aspect of this bill is that we have formed rules in collaboration with the Election Commission,” Hamid said. “We now have an election manual, and the elections won’t be delayed.”

He added that holding fair elections is the main purpose of the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 for which, over 1200 recommendations were received from the public and lawmakers.

“We were unable to give overseas Pakistanis the right to vote,” he said, adding that electronic voting machines also failed during their test run in by-elections.

Earlier, at the start of the session, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah lashed out at the low presence of lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament.

Shah, a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said he was ashamed to see such a low level of attendance in the assembly today, when the lawmakers were expected to discuss the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017.

He said when the prime minister comes to attend the assembly session, others follow suit.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, on the advice of Shah, the chief whip of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Sheikh Aftab Ahmed issued directives to bring the backbenchers to the front.

In response, Ahmed, the parliamentary affairs minister, said he agrees with Shah’s arguments. “I request Shah to get used to this,” quipped Ahmed.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq directed Ahmed to ensure the presence of lawmakers and ministers of the ruling party.


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