Senate body defers bill for gender-based count of votes

Senate body defers bill for gender-based count of votes

ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Monday deferred consideration of a bill that seeks to declare invalid an election where women voters cast less than 10 per cent votes after a technical objection was raised by a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs which met here with Senator Saeed Ghani in the chair deferred the bill to allow members to consult their parties, and decided to seek more time from the chairman of Senate for presentation of a report on the bill titled Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced in the Senate by Sherry Rehman of the PPP on March 7.

Additional Secretary ECP Syed Sher Afgan was of the view that a losing candidate could take advantage of the law by preventing women from voting to get the electoral process stopped.

Secretary Parliamentary Affairs Manzoor Ali Khan opined that the bill should be referred to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms which is in the process of drafting a unified electoral law.

Ms Rehman said the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms was working on a slow pace and insisted that she wanted this bill to be passed as early as possible. She said the bill was meant to ensure the women exercise their right to franchise.

She said the bill proposes to declare polls in the area null and void where the proportion of female votes is less than 10 per cent of total polled votes. The bill also seeks to declare as corrupt practice the act of preventing women from exercising their right to vote through written or unwritten agreements.

Criticising judiciary’s interference in exclusive domain of the ECP, the chairman of the committee Saeed Ghani said judiciary was creating problems by rendering judgements which find no mention in electoral laws and the constitution.

Senator Nihal Hashmi of PML-N said that the election tribunals were not working as they should. He said election tribunals should be bound by the law to adjudicate upon election petitions within the stipulated time frame.

The additional secretary ECP told the committee that the ECP was bound by the constitution to obey orders of the apex court. He said the ECP had no powers to call any judgement passed by Supreme Court illegal.

The chairman of the committee asked the ECP to take political parties into confidence. He noted that the things would improve with political parties backing the ECP. He also called for meetings and dialogue between the chief justice and the chief election commissioner.


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