Sharif to benefit as Senate approves Electoral Reforms Bill 2017

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pave the way for Nawaz Sharif to regain chairmanship of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani chaired the session of the Upper House.

However, due to lack of attendance, an amendment suggested by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Aitzaz Ahsan was rejected.

The PPP had suggested an amendment in clause 203 of the bill, which said that any individual who is not qualified to become a member of the parliament, should not be eligible to become a party’s chairperson either.

Voting on the proposed amendment was done twice as during the first round some ruling party members were not present. During the second round, members cast 38 votes against the amendment and 37 in favour. Hence, the amendment was rejected by a margin of one vote.

According to the bill, every citizen will have the right to be part of a political party, except those in government service, and will also have the right to create a political party.

The bill also enables the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to scrutinise election expenses within 90 days, failing which election expenses submitted by a political party would be deemed to be correct.

The election reform bill was presented in the Upper House after being passed by the National Assembly earlier.

In the Lower House, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had recommended amendments which were rejected.

The NA had received around 150 amendments proposed by political parties for the bill. However, a key amendment proposed by the PTI asking for voting rights for overseas Pakistanis was also rejected.

The parliamentary committee had earlier finalised the Election Reforms Bill 2017 unifying eight different laws.

In the bill, new measures had been proposed in different areas of electioneering to give more powers to the ECP for holding of free, fair and transparent elections in the country.

Through the bill, the ECP had been strengthened and made fully independent and autonomous. According to the bill, the ECP shall prepare an action plan six months before the elections and delimit constituencies after every census.

Citizens, who have obtained CNICs (Computerized National Identity Cards) from NADRA (National Database Registration Authority) will be automatically enrolled as voters.

As far as practicable, the distance between a polling station and the voters assigned to it has been reduced to one kilometre.

According to the approved bill, nomination form has been simplified and the same form has been prescribed for candidates for all seats. Printing of ballot papers will be based on the formula that the number of ballot papers per polling station shall be equal to the number of votes at the polling station, rounded off to the nearest hundred.

Enabling provisions have been made for the ECP to conduct pilot projects for utilization of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Biometric Voters Identification (BVI) and voting by overseas Pakistanis. Maximum limit election expenses have been rationalized. Wealth statement will be filed by a member in the same form as is submitted under the Income Tax Ordinance 2001.

The election dispute resolution system has been made more expeditious and result-oriented. Local government constituencies shall be delimited by delimitation committees set up by the ECP for each district.

The ECP is also being empowered to install surveillance cameras in highly sensitive polling stations for remote monitoring of activities in such polling stations. It has also been empowered to delegate its functions to its members and officers.

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