Election Bill moves ahead

IN an otherwise unexpected development, the Election Bill 2017, aimed at reforming a number of electoral laws, sailed through the Upper House of Parliament despite numerical disadvantages that the ruling party has been facing in the Senate since long. The striking aspect of the entire legislative process in the house, on Friday, was that two important amendments moved by PPP and PTI were defeated during voting, brightening prospects for Mian Nawaz Sharif to assume leadership of his party in future.
Though the National Assembly was first to have adopted the Bill but it would go back to the Lower House to fulfil a legal and procedural requirement that a Bill passed by a House and adopted by the other in an amended form will be referred back to the original house for adoption again before it is sent to the President for assent. However, as the ruling PML(N) enjoys comfortable majority in the Lower House, its adoption in an amended form would not be a problem and it is now only a matter of time for the Bill to become an Act of Parliament. The Election Commission has long been pressing the lawmakers to clear the Bill timely so that it could initiate practical measures to implement its various provisions that are crucial to the holding of free, fair and transparent elections. There is a sort of consensus on the Bill and most of the objections raised by the opposition parties were irrelevant or not practicable due to peculiar circumstances of the country and technological barriers and issues including those related to use of electronic voting machines and right of vote for Overseas Pakistanis. The Government showed magnanimity by incorporating a number of amendments proposed by the opposition members both in the National Assembly and the Senate. Passage of the Bill by the Senate in the form that the Government preferred is surely a political and legal victory for PML(N) and its allies and it showed tables can be turned provided things are handled carefully and diligently. The Government was able to bring on board MQM and BNP Senators, which is quite significant in the on-going re-alignment of alliances ahead of the general election. Similarly, by voting against the person-specific amendment by Aitzaz Ahsa, targeting MNS, some PPP Senators sent a loud and clear message to their own party that has been, of late, indulging in the luxury of unprincipled politics because of personal vendetta.

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