New election bill to ensure free, fair polls in 2018: Dar

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ISLAMABAD, Dec 21 (APP): Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar on Wednesday said that the proposed draft of Election Bill 2017 had been prepared with complete consensus of all political parties and it would ensure transparent, free and fair elections to be held in 2018.
The draft bill which gives complete administrative and financial powers to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), ensures registration of voters in the ECP automatically after registration of new National Identity Card and allows handicapped people to post their votes through postal service, was tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday by Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar who is also Chairman of Electoral Reforms Committee and it would be submitted in the upper
house tomorrow (December 22).
Addressing the press briefing alongwith Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid and Minister of State for Information Technology, Anusha Rehman here, Ishaq Dar said the present government was introducing new law regarding elections after a gap of 40 years to make the electoral process more free, fair and transparent.
He said the sub committee was formed in October 2014 which had held 70 meetings so far and presented 1283 proposals.
Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid said that Sub-committee’s recommendations consist of three parts including Draft Election Bill 2017, Draft Election Rules 2017 and Draft on Constitutional Amendments.
Discussing the Constitutional Amendments, the minister said that the Sub-committee approved amendments with consensus.
He said that 22nd Constitutional Amendment was held only for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as appointments of Chairman and members of ECP were mentioned in the amendment.
He said that the sub-committee forwarded the draft of 23rd Constitutional Amendment to the main committee which was presented before the National Assembly and it was also posted on the Assembly’s website so that it could be finalized after receiving suggestions from Parliamentarians and general public.
He said that sub-committee reviewed/examined 1283 suggestions received from general public and organizations like Free and fair Election Network (FAFEN), UNDP, Transparency International and European Union Observers.
Dar said that the committee also examined reports and suggestions received from standing committees of National Assembly and Senate.
He said that the committee members expressed reservations over one point regarding suspension of election in the constituency where election result showed that less than 10 per cent women casted votes in the constituency.
He said that it was only a draft which would be finalized after receiving suggestions.
He said that the final draft would be presented in the National Assembly after consensus of all parties.
Ishaq Dar said that the committee awarded many powers to the ECP and its directions/orders would be considered final.
He said that the committee decided to empower ECP with financial autonomy according to Article 81 of the Constitution. ECP can take actions on rigging allegations and it would formulate an election cell to monitor the process.
He said that ECP staff would take oath according to their Act and Rules for making the election process transparent.
He said that polling scheme would be announced before 30 days of polling which cannot be changed.
He said that Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras would be installed at sensitive polling stations to avoid rigging allegations.
He said that the committee had decided that the persons with disability can also use postal ballot.
He said that the committee also held meetings on voting right for of overseas Pakistanis, Biometrics verification of votes and voting through Electronic Voting Machines but failed to get satisfactory results.
Ishaq Dar said that the committee empowered the ECP to use these technologies on experimental basis in the elections.
Discussing the issue of Election Petitions, he said that hearing of Election petitions would be held on day to day basis and Election Tribunals would be bound to announce verdict over petitions in a specific time period.
He said that the ECP would make code of conduct for elections and it would be provided to media, election observers and all other organizations.
He said that committee asked the ECP to run special campaigns for registration of women voters.
Zahid Hamid asked the political parties to ensure five per cent tickets to women candidates in the general elections.
Replying to a question, Ishaq Dar clarified regarding the notification issued by the government to attach the regulatory bodies with the federal ministries.
He said that all the regulatory bodies were already attached with some ministries and this notification transferred the administrative powers of those bodies from one ministry to others.
He rejected the notion that the regulatory bodies were regulating the ministries, saying that the regulatory bodies regulate just their own subject matters and policy and administrated powers were already with the ministries.