Parliament body approves Election Bill 2017

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ISLAMABAD, July 21 (APP): Parliamentary Committee on Electoral
Reforms Friday approved Election Bill 2017 with overwhelming
majority of the members, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said.
Talking to media after signing ceremony of the bill,
he said it would help in holding free, fair and transparent
elections in the country.
He said the 34-member committee finalized the bill after 119
meetings (main and sub committee on electoral reforms) during the
last over two years.
Some political parties had written four dissent notes which
was quite a common practice, he added.
He said that eight election laws of ECP had been merged into
one unified election law. Hopefully the new elections would be held
under the new law after passage of the bill from both houses of the
Parliament and consent of the President.
Responding to a question, Dar said legal and codal formalities
regarding the Bill have already been completed and remaining members
of the committee would soon give their formal consent to the bill.
He lamented that PTI had attended 118 meetings out of a total
of 119 meetings. Hopefully they would also give consent to the bill.
Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid said election laws
were being amended after passage of 40 years. The committee had
received 1283 proposals from civil society, bar associations,
general public, etc.
The committee was asked to circulate the proposals. The
committee again received 631 proposals. However, the committee
deliberated upon the latest electoral technology which could be adopted
after the ECP report.
Highlighting main features of the bill, he said the
Election Commission of Pakistan had been made autonomous and
independent. ECP enjoys powers of the high court. ECP has been empowered
to issue specific directions for performance of its duties.
He said ECP has been empowered to establish a transparent
result management system for expeditious counting, compilation and
dissemination of the election results.
Hard and soft (in USB-PDF format) copies of Electoral Rolls
with photographs of voters will be provided to all candidates on
payment of cost, he said.
Maximum limits of election expenses shall be Rs 4 million for
National Assembly, Rs 2 million for Provincial Assembly and Rs 1.5
million for Senate elections.
ECP will have full administrative powers to control transfer
of election officials during elections and take disciplinary action
against them for misconduct, he said.
Election Commissioner will have full financial powers
including power to create posts within its approved budgetary
allocations. ECP has been empowered to make rules without prior
approval of the President or Government.
All election officials would administer oath before commencement
of their duties pledging that they will act strictly in accordance with the
rules and directions of the ECP, he said.
Nomination forms have been simplified and the same form has
been prescribed for candidates for all seats. Tendered votes will
be counted by the Returning Officer. The material relating to
tendered votes will be sent to NADRA for forensic inquiry to
identify the impersonator so that criminal proceedings could be
initiated against him by the ECP, he said.
In case of equality of votes between two candidates, both will
be declared returned candidates and each shall become member for
half of the term of the assembly.
ECP may undertake pilot project for voting by overseas
Pakistanis.ECP will retain election related documents in tamper
evident sealed bags in storage space under its control at
appropriate places.
The election dispute resolution system has been made more
expeditious and result oriented by including provisions for case
management; day today trial; mandatory costs for adjournment;
suspension of the member for deliberate delay and decision within
four months.
To check mushroom growth of political parties conditions for
enlistment of a new political party with the ECP will include in
addition to existing requirements, minimum 2000 members and Rs
200,000 enlistment fee.
Performance of functions by the caretaker government have been
confined to day to day , routine, non-controversial matters that are
necessary to run the affairs of government, he said.
Presiding officer will submit gender segregated figures of
voters in each polling station. If the turnout of women voters is
less than 10 percent of the total votes polled in the constituency,
ECP presume that women have been restrained through an agreement
from casting their votes and may declare polling at one or more
polling stations, or election in the whole constituency, void.
Political parties shall encourage women membership and award
at least 5 percent party tickets to women candidates on general
seats.