Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017

Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017

The Senate on the 23rd of October passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017 with a majority vote, thus imposing a ban on disqualified persons from taking part in political activities.

The Bill had jointly been submitted to the Senate Secretariat earlier this month by Taj Haider, Saleem Mandviwala and Mukhtiar Ahmed Dhamra of the PPP; Syed Shibli Faraz, Azam Khan Swati, Mohsin Aziz, Nauman Wazir Khattak, Liaquat Khan Tarakai, retired Brig John Kenneth Williams and Samina Saeed of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf; Kamil Ali Agha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-i-Islami.

The amendment in Section 203 sought to impose a ban on disqualified persons from taking part in political activities, which was finally approved by the majority vote.

As many as 49 lawmakers voted in favour of this amendment and 18 voted against it.

The Bill, titled the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017, was part of the 48-point agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat for the opening day of the autumn session of the Upper House of Parliament.

The Law and Justice Minister, while opposing the bill, said that military dictators had incorporated the controversial section. He said the democratic government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had omitted the section in 1975 as it was against the spirit of the Constitution.

He pointed out that Pervez Musharraf in the Political Party Act 2002 again included the controversial clause. Even the electoral committee on election reforms unanimously welcomed the removal of the clause on November 17, 2014.

He refuted the impression that the clause was incorporated to give benefit to a specific person.

Taking advantage of its numerical strength, the PML-N had earlier this month bulldozed the Elections Act, 2017, through the National Assembly and had it assented to by President Mamnoon Hussain within hours.

The law was passed to allow the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N to re-elect former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as its chief. In July, the Supreme Court, in its verdict of the Panama Papers case, had disqualified Sharif from becoming a lawmaker.

The original Bill passed by the National Assembly had been adopted by the Senate with amendments, but the amendment to Clause 203, sought by the opposition members, was defeated in the Upper House due to the opposition’s ill-preparedness.

A number of petitions have already been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the said provision of the Elections Act. The Pakistan Peoples Party is one of such petitioners.

Earlier, the opposition moved a resolution to suspend the rules under 263 Rules and allow the House to pass the Bill. The Opposition lawmakers including Taj Haider and Azam Swati requested the chair to make sense of the House and take up the Bill instead of referring it to the concerned standing committee for further deliberation.

During the previous session, the Senate had adopted a resolution stating that a person ineligible to be elected as a lawmaker should not become office-bearer of any political party. Aitzaz Ahsan of PPP moved the resolution and all other opposition parties supported it.