A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs was held at Parliament House under the chairmanship of Senator Taj Haider. Apart from the Senate members, Secretary Parliamentary Affairs and Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan also attended the meeting. The Chairman Committee welcomed all the members in the meeting. The Committee received a detailed Section-wise briefing on “The Election Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017 as passed by the National Assembly.
The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs gave a detailed briefing to the Committee on various provisions of The Election Act (Amendment) Bill ,2017. The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs apprised the Committee that according to the proposed amendment, the Commission would order elections within 30 days instead of 60 days on any major peculiarity. The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs said in the briefing that the transgression of the code of conduct in the amendment bill can complain only before the polling day. On which Senator Farooq Hamid Naek suggested lodging a complaint up to seven days before the polling day. The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs underlined that under proposed amendments, a CNIC holder may be registered as a voter in the area of his permanent or temporary address within the jurisdiction of the NADRA office from where he obtains his CNIC. Senator Farooq H Naek objected to the proposed amendment and said that this section must be seen in a way that the Constitution is not being violated. The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs told the committee that only through technology can we move forward. He assured the committee that we would not make any amendment to the Bill that was unconstitutional.
The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs during the briefing apprised that NADRA would hand over the list to the Election Commission after the registration of votes. Senator Sania Nishtar observed that it would be important to understand the purpose of the amendment to empower NADRA regarding voter registration. Senator Farooq Hamid Naek underscored that not just one amendment but the purpose of all the amendments needs to be understood. Minister of State Ali Muhammad Khan said in response to a question from the committee members that The Election Act ( Amendment ) Bill, 2017 was drafted by Law Minister Forogh Naseem and former Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan Swati. Regarding the proposed powers of the DRO, Senator Farooq H Naek maintained that the fewer powers are given to the DRO regarding the polling scheme, the better the Election Commission would be. The District Election Commissioner (DRO ) can easily influence the election process, he added.
In the proposed amendments, the fee for contesting elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies is being increased to Rs 50,000 and Rs 30,000, which was objected to by some members. The chairman of the committee suggested not to increase the contesting fee. Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar pointed out that in some countries there is no fee for contesting elections, therefore no one's right should be affected by increasing the fee. The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs during the briefing said that if the winning candidate does not take oath within 60 days the seat will be considered vacant. Senator Afnanullah Khan and Senator Sania Nishtar raised objections and said that what will happen to the candidate who becomes sick after winning the election? Senator Farooq Naek suggested including the word "Willfully" in the relevant clause. It was also suggested to appoint two polling agents instead of one for any candidate during the counting of ballots.
The Secretary Parliamentary Affairs informed that a meeting on Electoral Reforms with the Speaker National Assembly is also scheduled to be held later in the day, on which the Chairman Committee Senator Taj Haider said that the recommendations of the committee should also be put before the relevant Committee on electoral reforms. The Chairman Committee sought a detailed briefing from the Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan on the Election Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the next meeting.
Senator Falak Naz, Senator Liaqat Khan Tarakai, Senator Sania Nishtar, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Senator Farooq Hamid Naek, Senator Prof Sajid Mir, Senator Azam Nazir Tarar attended the meeting. Senator Afnanullah Khan participated as a special invitee in the committee. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, Secretary Parliamentary Affairs, Secretary Election Commission and other officials of the Election Commission were also among the participants.