Shibli seeks opposition parties’ support for open ballot in upcoming Senate polls

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Wednesday said the government was making efforts that all elections, including the general and Senate, should be held in a transparent manner.

Addressing a news conference after the weekly Federal Cabinet meeting, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed out that after the 1970 election, there had always been objections about the electoral process.

The minister referred to the recent United States elections where the two presidential candidates had a problem over the electoral process, but after developing consensus on electronic voting the matter was resolved.

He recalled that the electoral reforms were carried out in 2017 but the committee headed by Ishaq Dar ignored the issue of electronic voting.

“We want that the elections should be transparent and impartial,” he said, adding the overseas Pakistanis were rendering great services for Pakistan, besides sending substantial foreign remittances.

In the next elections, he said, the overseas Pakistanis would be given the opportunity of electronic voting so that they could have a voice and could participate in the country’s polling process.

Shibli Faraz said the prime minister took strict notice of the increasing incidents of sexual crimes against women and children despite the passage of Zainab Alert Bill, and issued a direction to the relevant authorities to take measures to stop such incidents.

He said the inheritance bill was meant to protect the legal rights of women and for getting the succession certificate.

Now the system had been revamped and the heirs of a deceased person could get a succession certificate in 15 days, Shibli Faraz added.

He said the case for transparency in the Senate elections was also in the Supreme Court.  Now the nation knew who wanted the elections on the basis of merit and capability, and who continued the past practice of use of money, he commented.

Replying to the questions of media persons, Shibli Faraz said that Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Minister for Law to immediately reactivate the bill on the issue of missing persons, as now after drastic fall in terrorist acts, the issue ought to be redressed.

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He said that the issue was raised in the Cabinet by Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari, who gave a complete perspective with regards to the proposed legislation.

Shibli said that the Prime Minister gave directive to the law minister and recalled that he himself had visited such sit-ins about missing persons to show solidarity with them.

The minister pointed out that almost every country did face security issues but there had to be a mechanism like three months, six monthsor nine months.

Replying to another question, the minister clarified that at the time of no-confidence vote against incumbent Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, he was Leader of the House and knew that the chairman had personal relations with Senators and they voted for him.

He added the PTI government believed in the principle of continuity of the chairman, as never in the history this did happen that he was removed in this manner.

He said the opposition had just resorted to rhetoric instead of forming committee like PTI and finding out, who had crossed the party line whereas the PTI sent its 20 MPAs home for violation of party discipline.

He asked why the opposition did not do so and added this showed that the opposition’s conduct was hypocritical.

About price hike of essential commodities, he pointed out that various factors caused it, like when PTI formed government, there was no governance, there was a huge gap between revenue and expenditure and then coronavirus also surfaced in.

Moreover, there were also some fundamental structural issues; certain clauses of the 18th Amendment also needed to be looked into while the government employees in the provincial departments got more and those in the federal institutions got less. As a result, they wanted to go the provinces as well and those in the provinces did not want to join here, he added.

He said the government opted for 25 per cent increase in basic pay of its employees.

He then referred to the massive contrast between the lifestyle and governance of Prime Minister Imran Khan and those, led by PPP and PML-N.

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He again cited statistics to show that the expenditures of the Prime Minister Office and the Prime Minister House had been massively reduced while Prime Minister Imran Khan did not have a single camp office, whereas in the past ten years of PPP and PML-N regimes, there were several camps, which incurred billions of costs, besides deployment of thousands of policemen in the name of security.

The minister explained that the Prime Minister House and Prime Minister Office expenditure, which stood at Rs. 509 million and 514 million in 2018 was brought down to Rs. 339 million and Rs. 305 million next year and then further cut to Rs. 280 million and Rs. 334 million respectively.

All this reflected that the past governments considered themselves above the law and the masses, he added.

Shibli also noted that while past rulers would have their entire family and friends housed in PM House, Prime Minister Imran Khan lived in his own residence and spent far less on his important foreign visits unlike the past rulers.

He added there were no discretionary grants to be used for giving away gifts during PTI-led government tenure.

He said that austerity steps showed that when the country and its people were in difficult time, their prime minister also understood it and did practice it.

Asked about nomination of Federal Minister Faisal Vawda for the Senate elections, facing a disqualification case in the Election Commission, the minister said that the matter was yet to be decided but the party leadership decided to give him representation in the Senate for PTI had less members, who could speak in his bold manner.

About the government efforts for bringing about transparency in the electoral process, the minister said that PTI and its government had been striving since long for this purpose but the opposition, which had similar stance, was opposing all such initiatives, showing its double standard.

Shibli said the government would try that the next general elections should be held, using the electronic voting machines and giving representation to the overseas Pakistanis as well.