ECP members from Balochistan, Sindh: PM yet to start consultation with opposition leader

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan on Tuesday told a National Assembly committee that the prime minister had yet to start consultation with the opposition leader for appointment of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan.

The minister told the National Assembly‚Äôs standing committee that the seats fell vacant following retirement of two members on Jan 26. He said the prime minister and the opposition leader in the National Assembly were to propose names after consultation. He said that in case of difference of opinion, they would propose three names each for members from both the provinces and a decision would be taken by the parliamentary committee on appointment of chief election commissioner and ECP members.

He said it was his desire that the matter was decided through consultation. About the commencement of process for consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader, he said he would raise the matter in the parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday (tomorrow).

A highlight of the meeting was withdrawal of a bill by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali seeking to give people the right to get registered as voters anywhere in Pakistan, irrespective of the addresses mentioned on their computerised national identity cards (CNICs).

Under Section 27 of the Elections Act, a person shall be deemed to be resident of an electoral area if his/her temporary or permanent address on their CNIC issued by the National Database and Registration Authority lies in the said electoral area.

The ECP has already given a deadline of Feb 28 to 15 million voters registered on addresses other than those mentioned on their CNICs to decide where they want to be enrolled, failing which they will be shifted to their permanent addresses.

This meant the persons registered as voters at addresses other than the ones mentioned on their CNICs had just a week to decide where they wanted to be registered, or they would be enrolled as voters in their permanent addresses.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Mohammad, expressing his views before the committee, said it was essentially required to limit the scope of registration to one of the two addresses mentioned on the CNIC to curb bogus voting.

He hinted that the deadline of Feb 28 might be extended to facilitate maximum voters. He said that around 15 per cent of the total voters were registered on addresses other than the permanent and temporary addresses mentioned on their CNICs.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali initially insisted that there was no harm if a resident of Chitral cast his vote in Karachi, but later agreed to withdraw the bill as most of the committee members supported the ECP position.

The NA standing committee also passed a bill seeking to provide for constitution of two ECP benches, instead of one, to decide petitions.

The parliamentary affairs minister told the committee that the bill had already been passed by the Senate.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019