ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Tuesday grilled Election Commission of Pakistan officials for allowing the Milli Muslim League (MML), the newly-formed political wing of the banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) group, to take part in the Sept 17 by-election in NA-120 (Lahore).
The ECP officials were summoned by the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs to give a briefing on the Lahore by-election.
“How did the ECP allot an election symbol to the MMA which is banned under the Fourth Schedule?” Senator Sherry Rehman, the committee chairperson, asked the officials.
She said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had been barred from contesting the 2002 general election, but a proclaimed terrorist has been allowed to run for a National Assembly seat.
The ECP additional secretary informed the committee that the top poll supervisory body had sought an explanation from the Ministry of Interior over the issue and was awaiting their reply. The MML candidate, Yaqoob Sheikh, was registered as an independent candidate, who bagged 5,822 votes – much to the surprise of everyone.
Senator Rahimullah Magsi said pictures of the leaders of the proscribed organisation were clearly seen on the campaign posters of Sheikh. This, he added, brought a bad name to the country internationally.
Senator Sherry Rehman said the ECP should have taken action against Sheikh, with other members of the parliamentary panel urging the ECP to seek their help in case any legislation was needed.
Dissatisfied with the response, the PPP senator told the ECP official to brief the committee again in its next meeting. “The ECP is a constitutional institution … it should work on its own [instead of depending on others],” she remarked.
ECP’s Director General IT Khizer Aziz briefed the committee about the use of biometric verification machines (BVMs) in NA-120.
Aziz said 22,181 voters had utilised 100 BVMs at 39 polling stations and 100 polling booths. He added that 19,520 voters were verified through those machines while about 2,646 voters could not be ascertained for various reasons, including wound on thumbs. On the whole, he said, the results of the machines were unsatisfactory.
“These are the results from a highly urbanised constituency. The use of machines in remote and rural areas could exacerbate the situation,” he told the senators.
The DG, while sharing details of the cost, said Rs90 billion would be required for holding elections through BVMs across the country. He also said some 11.6 million registered voters of a total of 90.7 million might not be verified by the machines if used in the general election.
During the meeting, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs updated the panel about the legislation and related performance of the division.
Since 2013, as many as 97 bills tabled by the government were passed in Senate as well as 32 private members bills.
Similarly, 123 government bills were passed by the National Assembly and four private members bills were passed, including 114 acts of parliament.
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