Parliament passes bill to grant more powers to interim govt before polls

Joint session passes the amended bill with majority vote n Law minister Tarar says concerns of all allied parties are taken care of in the amended bill.

ISLAMABAD   -  A joint session of the Parliament yesterday approved amendments to the Election Act 2017 with majority empowering the upcoming caretaker setup to take decisions regarding the existing bilateral or multilateral agreements and projects.

The amended bill, presented by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi, clarified that unlike the previous caretaker government the upcoming setup would not be confined to only day-to-day affairs of the government till elections are held.

The PML-N on Sunday last had announced that an amendment was being introduced to empower the interim setup to have powers similar to that of an elected government.

Under the bill, the President Officer shall immediately take a snapshot of the result of the vote count and as soon as connectivity is available and will send it electronically to the Election Commission and the Returning Officer before sending the original documents under Section 90. The Returning Officer shall compile complete provisional results and shall communicate these results electronically to the Commission. “In case the results are incomplete by 02am on the day immediately following the polling day, the Returning Officer shall communicate to the Commission provisional results as consolidated till that time along with reasons for the delay,” it said.

“In writing, while listing the polling stations from which results are awaited and thereafter shall send the complete provisional results as soon as compiled but not later than 10am,” according to the amended bill.

Under the bill, the contesting candidates may use their existing bank accounts for election expenses. Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar, sharing the clauses of the bill, said the government had prepared a new draft taking care of the concerns raised by the allied partners. “Complete consensus has been evolved on all points except Section – 230 of the bill,” he said mentioning that the members of the committee were not agreed on it.

Tarar said that a new draft of the amendment was made with the collaboration and consultation of Minister for Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar. He said other amendments have been shared with all the members and got approved with consensus.

According to the draft bill, “Provided that sub-sections 1 and 2 shall not apply where the caretaker government has to take actions or decisions regarding existing bilateral or multilateral agreements or the projects already initiated under the Public Private Partnership Authority Act 2017, the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Act 2022, and the Privatisation Commission Ordinance 2000.” Regarding the power granted to the upcoming caretaker setup, PPP‘s senior lawmaker Raza Rabbani said that he had no objection to other amendments to the Election Act 2017. “I am grateful to the law minister for taking care of the suggestions floated by the lawmaker,” he said and lightly opposed granting extra powers to the caretaker setup. Regarding the amendments, the ruling PML-N successfully persuaded its allies in the Centre to approve the bill a day after the amendment bill was deferred in the parliament for further deliberations. In this regard, Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms meeting held with PMLN’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in the chair to discuss Section 230 — which relates to the functions of a caretaker government. After the discussion, the PML-N agreed to make minor changes in the bill that would allow the interim government to only engage with bilateral donors and multilateral institutions. Under the new changes, the caretaker regime is given the powers under clause 2A of Section 230, the sources further said, adding that the setup will not have powers to enter into new agreements. Likewise, PTI Senator Ali Zafar also opposed granting power to the interim setup. He said that a caretaker government could not replace an elected representative government.

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