The Senate passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017 with a majority vote, thus imposing a ban on disqualified persons from taking part in political activities.
The bill had jointly been submitted to the Senate Secretariat earlier this month by Taj Haider, Saleem Mandviwala and Mukhtiar Ahmed Dhamra of the PPP; Syed Shibli Faraz, Azam Khan Swati, Mohsin Aziz, Nauman Wazir Khattak, Liaquat Khan Tarakai, retired Brig John Kenneth Williams and Samina Saeed of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf; Kamil Ali Agha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-i-Islami.
The amendment in Section 203 sought to impose a ban on disqualified persons from taking part in political activities, which was finally approved by the majority vote.
As many as 49 lawmakers voted in favour of this amendment and 18 voted against it.
The bill, titled the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017, was part of the 48-point agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat for the opening day of the autumn session of the Upper House of parliament.
Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid, while opposing the bill, said that the controversial section was incorporated by military dictators. He said the democratic government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had omitted the section in 1975 as it was against the spirit of the Constitution.
He said the controversial clause was again included by Pervaz Musharraf in Political Party Act 2002. Even the electoral committee on election reforms unanimously welcomed the removal of the clause in November 17, 2014, he added.
He refuted the impression that the clause was incorporated to give benefit to a specific person.
Taking advantage of its numerical strength, the PML-N had earlier this month bulldozed the Elections Act, 2017, through the National Assembly and had it assented to by President Mamnoon Hussain within hours.
The law was passed to allow the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N to re-elect former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as its chief. In July, the Supreme Court, in its verdict in the Panama Papers case, had disqualified Sharif from becoming a lawmaker.
The original bill passed by the National Assembly had been adopted by the Senate with amendments, but the amendment to Clause 203, sought by the opposition members, was defeated in the Upper House due to the opposition’s ill-preparedness.
A number of petitions have already been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the said provision of the Elections Act. The PPP is one of the petitioners.
Earlier, the opposition moved a resolution to suspend the rules under 263 Rules and allow the House to pass the bill. The Opposition lawmakers including Taj Haider and Azam Swati requested the chair to take sense of the House and take up the bill instead of referring it to the concerned standing committee for further deliberation.
During the previous session, the Senate had adopted a resolution stating that a person ineligible to be elected as a lawmaker should not become office-bearer of any political party. The resolution had been moved by Aitzaz Ahsan of the PPP and it was supported by other opposition parties.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has directed Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to brief the House on Thursday regarding the visit of United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the country.
Tillerson is set to visit Pakistan on Tuesday, October 24 (today).
Rabbani said that a variety of opinions were being propagated in connection with the visit. He raised the question that why Tillerson is not going to meet the standing committees of Senate and the National Assembly on foreign affairs, as well as the National Security Committee of the Senate.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily