ISLAMABAD: The coalition government on Friday defended amendments to accountability laws, scrapping e-voting and explained the logic behind removing the National Accountability Office’s arrest powers.
During a joint press conference, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, Senator Kamran Murtaza of JUI-F and Faisal Karim Kundi of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) highlighted the main features of the amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), the law that governed the NAB, and technical issues related to the conduct of voting for the upcoming general election through electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Mr Tarar said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), not the government, organized the elections and it was up to the ECP to decide in which constituencies it would use the EVMs.
He said, however, that the ECP had already told the Supreme Court that if elections were held within eight months, it would not be able to use EVMs because it took time to train staff on them. functioning.
“We have not rejected the use of EVMs in elections; instead, we left the matter to the ECP to decide,” Mr. Tarar added.
Speaking of liability laws, the minister said “historically speaking, most amendments to NAB laws have been made for political reasons”.
He recalled that the Supreme Court in September 2019 put a question mark over NAB laws and observed that the office was being used for political engineering purposes.
Since no offense was bailable under the current law, the amendments empowered the courts to grant bail, the justice minister said.
The amendments defined the grounds for a person’s arrest, whereas under current law it was up to the NAB president to issue arrest warrants. “Power has not been exercised wisely.”
He said the 90-day pretrial detention had been reduced to 14 days and the time to conclude a trial had been extended from 30 days to one year.
Senator Kamran Murtaza of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl said that while his party favored disbanding the National Accountability Bureau, it gave its assent to the amendments as the new law would largely curtail the powers of the NAB .
Justice Minister Tarar tried to dispel fears that the government was going to disenfranchise Pakistanis overseas.
PPP’s Faisal Karim Kundi said Pakistanis abroad were a valuable asset and “we cannot deny them their right to vote”.
The recent legislation aims to enable the ECP to develop a strategy to ensure voting rights for overseas Pakistanis in a transparent manner.
The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, headed by Senator Taj Haider, had previously held 18 meetings and gathered input from experts, including representatives of the ECP.
Other organizations consulted by the committee included the Free and Fair Elections Network, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency and a Spanish cabinet appointed under Supreme Court guidelines.
These bodies were unanimous in considering that it was not possible to use EVMs on “such a large scale”.
Posted in Dawn, May 28, 2022