The opposition parties on Monday lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for skipping the National Assembly session convened to discuss the situation arising out of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and the federal government’s response to it, calling the premier “inept” and the government’s strategy “confusing”.

During the NA session held after a gap of nearly two months due to the pandemic, there were moments when the discussion over the 18th amendment overshadowed the Covid-19 situation, lockdown and the federal government’s response to the economic challenges resulting from it.

The session was convened under the chairmanship of NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri as Speaker Asad Qaiser was not able to chair it as he was diagnosed with the virus last week and went into quarantine.

On the 18th amendment, both Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif were of the view in their speeches that the government was reopening the “fault line”.

Addressing the NA session, the PPP chairman criticised the prime minister, saying he has “failed to lead the country” during the pandemic while the PML-N leader termed the federal government’s strategy to deal with the outbreak “confusing”.

Bilawal reminded Imran that he was the premier of the entire country and “not just the PTI”.

After noticing that the prime minister’s chair was empty, Bilawal said that he was saddened to say that “our prime minister, who is also the country’s health minister, is not present in the session today. He doesn’t think that it is part of his job to brief this house and the people on coronavirus”.

“This isn’t a battle of political statements, this is a part of the prime minister’s job as the leader of the house,” he said, adding that it was his duty to outline the steps the government needed to take to fight the outbreak.

At the start of his speech, he said that the coronavirus had exposed the “true nature of US President Donald Trump, UK PM Boris Johnson and unfortunately, it has also revealed the truth about our prime minister’s ineptitude”.

He said that it would have been better if PM Imran, who also holds the portfolio of the health ministry, was present in the session and briefed the nation on the current health situation.

Asif, in his speech, slammed the PTI-led government, saying it had no clear policy on the lockdown. “When we had fewer deaths, the entire country was shut down. Now that we are seeing a spike in cases, they are easing the restrictions,” the PML-N leader said. “Centre has no strategy. What is their lockdown strategy and what is a smart lockdown? They should come up with something that less-educated people like me should be able to understand.

“It is either black or white; there is no grey area. Similarly, either it’s a lockdown or not. A complete lockdown at the outset would have gotten the country through the pandemic.”

On comments made by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi regarding the 18th amendment at the beginning of the session, Asif said that the 18th Constitutional Amendment was passed in 2010, settling the issue of provincial autonomy after a period of 65 years.

In his speech, Qureshi said that health became a provincial subject under the 18th Constitutional Amendment and after that the PPP has remained in power in Sindh and the PML-N in Punjab.

“I spent many years of my youth in PPP which always talked about federation. Today, this party smells of provincial bias,” Qureshi said, adding that it was time for “us as Pakistanis to think and avoid provincial tactics”.

Asif gave importance to the 18th amendment and said: “We might not have lost East Pakistan if we had passed the 18th amendment in the 50s or 60s.”

The PML-N leader advised not to touch the settled issues. “Through consensus we can discuss but not like this.”

He said that the government had yet to discuss the issue of the 18th amendment at the relevant constitutional forum – the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

Bilawal, on the other hand, said that the 18th amendment gave additional resources to the provinces, yet the yearly budget was not enough to battle the pandemic.

He criticised the federal government’s inability to provide provinces the help required to combat the virus and said: “The Centre should’ve stood with the provinces shoulder-to-shoulder.”

The PPP chairman said that as only the Centre could ensure uninterrupted international supply of medical supplies, it should guarantee that the provinces receive them.

“We’re in the midst of a war, and the premier expects us to fight the war on our own … can you imagine Pakistan declaring war and sending its army without guns, bullets, and uniforms,” he said, adding that there would be consequences of fighting the war on our own for all.

He was of the view that Sindh was asking for monetary assistance to spend on health and save peoples’ lives. “It is the Centre’s responsibility and it will have to help the provinces,” he said.

On 18th amendment and the National Finance Commission Award, Bilawal said, “You [Centre] are not in a position to win. I do not want to fight rather help the incumbent government during the pandemic.

“We are ready to work along with the federal government on coronavirus at every forum but the premier should keep an eye on his batting order and keep the people who can talk respectfully till we win the battle against the pandemic.”

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said that the virus did not spread in the US, UK and other parts of the world from Taftan border. Bilawal replied, “If the virus did not come from Wuhan, China, in Pakistan, the question arises that how it was dealt at the Taftan border.

“The borders are the responsibility of the federal government. Neither the pilgrims returning from Iran had masks or food nor were their tests conducted before they reached Sukkur. The Centre should have helped the Balochistan government at that time.”

Azhar went on to say that no decision was taken on the basis of political rhetoric and that all countries were going through smart lockdown. “We won’t change our policies after listening to [opposition’s] speeches,” he quipped in his speech while responding to Asif’s remarks.

In his address, FM Qureshi emphasised on the need to restart economic activity in the country, saying that the government has to keep the wheels of the economy running.

“Pakistan is also affected by the pandemic like the rest of the world” he said, adding that the NA session was called considering the importance of parliament and after consultation with all parties.

Qureshi stressed that the coronavirus was undoubtedly the biggest crisis to hit since World War II. “Various measures are being adopted but experts have yet to find a cure for the virus,” he said. “It might take up to 18 months or two years before a vaccine is developed. However, we have to keep the wheels of the economy running.”

At the time, he noted, Pakistan’s testing capacity stood at 100 tests per day. “Now, our capacity is nearly 20,000 tests per day,” he said.

Asif and Bilawal, in their speeches, said that the government had claimed to conduct 50,000 tests every day yet it wasn’t the case.

On the PM’s stimulus package, Bilawal responded to Qureshi that he was happy when the government announced the stimulus package but when he went into its details, it emerged that “the government was not working with good intention”.

He said that he had offered PM Imran and his government to set aside political differences and work together to tackle the pandemic but received flak and verbal abuse from the highest level against his party and the chief minister. “It was so much that a leader of the ruling party went as far as to say that he contracted coronavirus due to the illiteracy of the people of Sindh,” Bilawal said.He revealed that the Sindh government prepared “Sindh Relief Ordinance” but it was not signed. “The Sindh governor should sign the Sindh Relief Ordinance tonight instead of sabotaging it,” he said.

Federal Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed questioned the PPP government’s spending on health during Covid-19.

“In 2019, there were 29,000 cases of dog bites yet there is no vaccine. We are criticised when we question where has the money been spent,” he said.

Interestingly, the opposition parties had left the NA session without announcing a formal walkout before Saeed started his speech as it was time to break the fast.

However, the lawmakers were notified that the session would reconvene on Wednesday (tomorrow).

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Tuesday said the PTI-led federal government lacks the courage to touch the 18th Amendment.

In a joint interview with Sindhi news channels, the PPP chairman said the Sindh government’s timely measures to stem coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan have averted a situation which prevails in Italy, Iran or New York. He said other provinces followed in the footsteps of the Sindh government and the deadly virus didn’t spread that rapidly in the country.

Separately, addressing the People’s Doctors Forum at Bilawal House Karachi through video link, he said doctors fighting the Covid-19 pandemic are the national heroes, adding that the Sindh government is going to give them a special package similar to the one given to the brave soldiers fighting against terrorism.

He said federal governments all over the world have given relief packages but that in Pakistan has given nothing except continuing the Benazir Income Support Program funding initially launched by the PPP. “I have been talking about giving relief packages not only to Sindh but all the provinces alike but instead of helping, federal government is placing obstacles in our way,” he lamented. Taking aim at Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, he said the provincial government has been trying to save the lives of citizens while the governor, the federation’s representative in the province, has been opposing the Sindh government’s measures such as lockdown. He said the governor is not even signing a relief package ordinance drafted by the Sindh government. “Relief package under that ordinance includes job and salary protection, rebate on utility bills, relief in school fees and rebate on house rent. Sindh government wants to give relief to the people of the province in all provincial taxes through this ordinance,” he added.

Bilawal said the PPP also wants the lockdown to end “but before that we have to ensure the safety of people’s lives”. He said abundant test kits will have to be given to the provinces and facilities in hospitals will also have to be increased to cope with the situation. “The federal government is not doing anything even in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the people have given them a mandate. We say that not only Sindh but the federation should help all the provinces as they badly need help,” he added. Meanwhile, in a statement, Bilawal said that Balochistan government’s decision to extend lockdown for another 15 days is in accordance with the ground situation. “So far the only effective defence against coronavirus has proven to be isolation, social distancing and lockdown,” he said, adding that the federal government should help Balochistan in increasing and establishing its testing capacity and isolation and quarantine centres through logistic support so that the country’s poorest and largest province can cope with the alarming situation it is facing alongside other provinces.

ISLAMABAD: Participants of an online discussion on Saturday likened the emerging controversy around the 18th Amendment to opening Pandora’s Box in order to undermine provincial autonomy.

The speakers said that whoever was behind the lobbying campaign against the 18th Amendment should not insult the collective national agreement reached by all the political, religious and nationalist parties who were in parliament at the time.

However, they said, changes may be made to develop and improve on the mechanisms of delivering social services and resources at the grassroots level and to strengthen local governments.

The discussion was organised by Devcom-Pakistan.

According to a statement, former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said that non-political elements were intentionally trying to develop choas through the government that would exacerbate the divide between the centre and the provinces.

Proponents of changing 18th Amendment have no idea what they want, senator says

“The state is not interested in the actual provincial autonomy given in the 18th Amendment. It is not the government behind the emerging move because it lacks political vision and brain on the essence of the 18th amendment.

“However, some pro-state elements are more interested to repeal or just rollback it to curb provincial autonomy; particularly they want to change the composition of National Finance Commission (NFC) award by cutting the share of the provinces. The consequences of fiddling with the most important part of the constitution would be disastrous for the national integrity,” he said.

Senator Rabbani said Pakistan was facing several dissenting elements when a fair NFC award was constituted under the 18th Amendment by taking all nationalists and dissenting elements on board.

Federalism won, resulting in more tranquility and harmony for political cohesion as 102 clauses of the Constitution were amended – including 58(2-B), which said it was the president’s prerogative to dissolve elected assemblies at will.

“Over the last 10 years, we have seen decline in the dissenting elements and the nationalists are taking part of the mainstream politics; democracy is taking its roots in the public, a democratic system is evolving, and some tolerance is emerging in the citizens.

“The government should convene regular meetings of the committee and the meetings of Council of Common Interests (CCI) that shall actually take place after every 90 days to review the progress on the common agenda of the centre and provinces,” he added.

Senator Sitara Ayaz said nothing could be said until the government something to the parliament in black-and-white. She said proponents of changing the amendment have no idea what they want.

“Seemingly it is an effort to drive out the attention of the masses from the present crises that government has failed to cope with. The centre has also failed to comply with its own obligations under the 18th Amendment. NFC award is the bone of contention while payments of royalties to the provinces are yet not on the agenda of the Islamabad. Some practical changes can be made in the amendment but cannot be reversed at all,” she said.

Parliamentarians have a strong relationship with the Constitution, Senator retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum said, adding that they could change any amendment at any time, but with rationale, consensus and an overwhelming two-thirds majority.

He said the Constitution is a living document and parliamentarians shall be open to good suggestions to make the Constitution more productive. If there are problems with the deliverance of the provinces, the lacunas should be identified and remedied instead of talking or taking any step against the historic effort that returned the 1973 Constitution close to its original, he said.

He added that he has suggested some amendments to the process of appointing members to the Election Commission of Pakistan to prevent delays and make the process more efficient, which are with the relevant committees for consideration.

While introducing the topic of discussion earlier, Devcom Director Munir Ahmed said the 18th Amendment was a historic decision of all the parties present in both houses of parliament in April 2020. It gave autonomy to the provinces and wiped off all the dictatorial changes to the Constitution, he said.

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday said with the government having no intention to do away with the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak, however, required its review through consultation among the Center, provinces and political forces.

He expressed these views while talking to media persons here at the Parliament House after attending the fourth meeting of parliamentary committee on the coronavirus.

The foreign minister said though the importance of 18th Amendment vis a vis the provincial autonomy could not be denied, yet there was a need to see whether its objectives were achieved.

He said if the provinces’ practice of looking towards the Center despite getting enhanced share in national resources after devolution of power through the 18th Amendment continued, then there was a need to sit together and review the situation.

The foreign minister said the provinces got various incentives from the Center under the 18th Amendment but did not pass on the same to lower levels.

He said that as the Center only got resources for current expenditures, debt servicing and defence under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award after 18th Amendment, all the stakeholders should sit together to discuss and review the distribution of resources before a new NFC Award.

Earlier while speaking in the meeting of parliamentary committee on the coronavirus, the minister said there was no problem between the Federal and Sindh governments except the difference of opinion on the issue of lockdown.

He said despite a general impression that there was an effective lockdown in Karachi, the number of coronavirus cases in the provincial metropolis was increasing.

The committee also unanimously approved a resolution demanding immediate release of the traders arrested in Karachi on Sunday.


The Prime Minister’s Office has sought details of the speeches made by the ministries and divisions without the approval of the federal cabinet.

The premier’s secretary has sent a communiqué to all the ministries and divisions in this regard.

According to the document available with The Express Tribune, the PM Office has directed the ministries and divisions to submit the details of the speeches made without the approval of the cabinet by April 30.

The communiqué stated according to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the 2016 Mustafa Impex case, the prime minister, federal minister or a federal secretary cannot take a decision on behalf of the federal government.

Any decision taken by the federal government should involve the consent of the federal cabinet.

In Mustafa Impex case, a bench of the Supreme Court reminded the federal government that “[the prime minister] was neither a substitute nor a surrogate for the cabinet. He could not exercise its powers by himself.”

The communiqué stated that the decision of the federal cabinet is considered the decision of the federal government.

It has asked for the details of speeches made before August 18, 2016 without the approval of the cabinet.

It has also sought the details of the speeches delivered by the federal ministers and secretaries according to the authority bestowed upon them by the cabinet.

The cabinet secretary will brief the federal cabinet about the speeches made without its approval on May 5.

PTI Senator Shibli Faraz has been appointed the new information minister of the country, federal minister Fawad Chaudhry and state-run Pakistan Television announced on Monday.

Meanwhile, retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa has been appointed as special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) for information, a title previously held by Firdous Ashiq Awan.

“The prime minister … has been pleased to appoint Lt Gen (Rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwa as special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, in [an] honorary capacity, with immediate effect,” a notification issued by the Cabinet Division said.

A second notification read: “The prime minister has been pleased to remove Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan from the office of special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, with immediate effect.”

The announcement was first made by Chaudhry, the minister for science and technology who earlier held the information portfolio.

The reason for the changes announced was not immediately clear. It also remains unclear if Awan will be assigned another portfolio.

Taking to Twitter, Awan thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for trusting her, saying it was his prerogative to decide which member of his team will serve on what position. “I respect his decision,” she added.

She also refuted news reports aired by some TV channels claiming she was removed from her office due to alleged corruption, terming them “concocted” and “baseless”.

“As a political worker, my objective is the country’s progress and the welfare of the people, which will continue under the PM’s leadership,” Awan wrote, congratulating Faraz and Bajwa on their appointments.

ISLAMABAD: Retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, a member of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Punjab, on Friday took the oath as acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

The oath was administered by ECP member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) retired Justice Irshad Qaiser under Article 217 of the Constitution, a day after Sardar Muhammad Raza retired as CEC after completing his five-year term in office.

Interestingly, after the retirement of the CEC, the ECP is left with only two members — both have been unconstitutionally appointed.

Article 207 (2) of the Constitution reads: “A person who has held office as judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court shall not hold any office of profit in the service of Pakistan, not being a judicial or quasi judicial office or the office of Chief Election Commissioner or of Chairman or member of a law commission or of Chairman or member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, before the expiration of two years after he has ceased to hold that office.”

Justice Irshad Qaiser became the first woman member of the ECP within 45 days of her retirement as a judge of the Peshawar High Court on June 14, 2016.

Similarly, Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi retired as a judge of the Lahore High Court on March 5, 2015, and thus had more than seven months to go before the completion of the two-year post-retirement period when he was appointed to the Election Commission in July 2016.

Under Article 218 of the Constitution, the commission consists of Chief Election Commissioner and four members — one from each province.

According to Article 219 of the Constitution, the commission is charged with the duty of preparing electoral rolls for elections to the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, and revising such rolls annually, organising and conducting election to the Senate or to fill casual vacancies in a provincial assembly, appointing Election Tribunal, holding general elections to the National Assembly, provincial assemblies and the local governments; and other such functions as may be specified by an Act of Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament).

The currently dysfunctional ECP cannot perform these functions.

A meeting of the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members ended in a deadlock last week, with the opposition insisting that the government first come up with the names of nominees for the post of chief election commissioner.

The demand came when retired justice Sardar Muhammad Raza was still holding the office, though the Constitution provides 45 days for the appointment of CEC and ECP members after their offices fall vacant.

Now after the government has proposed three names for the position, the parliamentary committee on appointment of CEC and ECP members will meet on Monday (Dec 9) and consider the three names each proposed by the government and the opposition for the positions of CEC and ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan.

While the chief election commissioner retired only a day before, the positions of two ECP members have been vacant for more than 10 months.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has reiterated that the federal government’s notification with regard to appointment of provincial ECP members is illegal and against the Constitution, in a written reply submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Islamabad based lawyer Jahangir Khan Jadoon on August 27 challenged the appointment of the ECP Sindh and Balochistan members in the IHC and requested it to stop implementation of notification issued by Ministry for Parliamentary Affairs.

According to available documents, the ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fatah Muhammad in a three-page reply has adopted the stance that appointment of these members is in violation of the Constitution’s Article 213 as the procedure defined in the Constitution was not followed.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Raza Khan had refused to take oath from both the members. The ECP says the secretary parliamentary affair had been informed about the CEC’s decision.

The Constitution’s Article 214 relates to taking oath of a member. Oath will be taken from members who are considered as being appointed according to the Constitution while the posting of the two members by the president is not considered to be constitutional, the reply says.

It also refers to some Supreme Court’s verdicts. The president had appointed law expert Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui as member Sindh and Muhammad Munir Kakar as member Balochistan.

However, the CEC refused to take oath from both the members. The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah will hear the case today (Thursday).

ISLAMABAD  –   The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday asked the members of the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies to submit their yearly statements of assets and liabilities on or before December 31, 2019.

The ECP has also asked the lawmakers to submit the details of assets and liabilities of their spouses and dependent children as on preceding 13th day of June on Form-B.

According to the statement issued by the ECP, it was a mandatory requirement under Section 137 of Elections Act 2017, under which members of Senate, National Assembly (NA) and Provincial Assemblies are required to submit the statements of their assets and liabilities with the Election Commission Secretariat including their spouses and dependent children.

The ECP explained that it will publish the names of the members who failed to submit the statements of assets & liabilities within the period specified in Sub-Section (1).

The Commission shall on the 16th day of January; by an order suspend the membership of a Member of an Assembly and Senate who failed to submit the statements of Assets and Liabilities by 15th day of January and such member shall cease to function till the submission of statements of assets and liabilities.

The prescribed forms alongwith instructions are available free of cost in the Election Commission Secretariat, Islamabad and offices of provincial Election Commissioners, Senate Secretariat, National Assembly Secretariat and Secretariats of all Provincial Assemblies to facilitate the members.

ISLAMABAD: The much-awaited session of the Senate during which opposition parties will try to oust through a no-confidence motion its chairman, who is supported by the government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), will take place on Thursday (today).

While the opposition was confident on Wednesday that the present incumbent, Sadiq Sanjrani, was on the way out because it enjoyed the support of required number of senators, the government was claiming the move would fail as many opposition senators would vote for Mr Sanjrani “in line with their conscience”.

However, a senator from one of the opposition parties mocked the government’s claim and said: “If they are so confident, why have they not named a candidate for the office of deputy chairman?”

Because the upper house of parliament is to take up the first-ever no-confidence motions against its chairman and deputy chairman (Saleem Mandviwala), both of them cannot chair the session under the rules; that’s why President Dr Arif Alvi has nominated Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to chair the session.

Wednesday was a day of hectic political activity, with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari hosting a meal for the opposition senators. The function provided the opposition parties an opportunity to fine-tune their strategy for the all-important Senate session.

More than 50 senators from the PPP, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Awami National Party, besides members from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas were in attendance.

In addition to Mr Bhutto-Zardari, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and the opposition’s joint candidate for the office of Senate chairman, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, also addressed the event.

Talking to reporters after the event, the PPP chairman said Mr Sanjrani still had time to resign voluntarily. “It will be good if he resigns now; otherwise he is going to go anyway.”

Speaking to the journalists, Mr Bizenjo said he “won the seat the day my name was put forward” for the post. He claimed enjoying the support of 65 senators and advised Mr Sanjrani to resign voluntarily. “This will be better for him as well as for us.”

Khursheed Shah of the PPP urged the government to “stay away from horse-trading… which has stopped the country from making progress”.

The coordination committee of the PML-N senators also met here with PML-N president Mian Shahbaz Sharif in the chair.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Sharif expressed the hope that “democracy and the Constitution would win during the Senate session”.

He said the opposition parties had a clear majority in the house and warned the government against adopting an “undemocratic and unconstitutional attitude” during the proceedings of the house.

Later, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Mr Sharif at his Islamabad residence and the two leaders discussed the upcoming Senate session. They also discussed the opposition’s course of action for the future.

Mr Bizenjo hosted a dinner for the opposition senators as part of efforts to keep their numbers intact. This function was also attended by PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz on special invitation. The dinner was also attended by leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, PPP chairman, JUI-F chief, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Nawaz said the “time for floor crossing and ditching political parties was over and the mindset that goes for nefarious moves to break parties would suffer a defeat” on Thursday.

Speaking to the opposition senators, Mr Bizenjo said: “The prestige of your leadership and your party is at stake… A vote against the consensus decision of the opposition would be a no-confidence against the leadership.”

According to sources, the last in the series of events organised by the opposition would be a brunch to be hosted by leader of the opposition in the National Assembly (Shahbaz Sharif) for opposition senators hours before the Senate session.

Meanwhile, the Senate secretariat placed the July 22 notification about summoning of the session on August 1 as an ‘order of the day’ on its website instead of giving a proper agenda under the rules. The mistake was however rectified late in the night.

The secretariat also sent a message to all the members detailing the procedure for voting under Rule 12(10) of the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the Senate, 2012.

They have been informed that the members would move motions seeking leave to move resolutions for removal of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, and if leave is granted the resolutions will be voted upon.

It says that voting on the resolution(s) shall be secret and each member will have one vote only.

The members will not be allowed to carry mobile phones and cameras inside the polling booth. Disclosing the ballot paper or taking its photograph is strictly prohibited.

Rule 12(9) says the Senate shall not be adjourned until the motion for leave is disposed of or, if leave is granted, the resolution has been voted upon.

Rule 12(12) reads: “The Chairman or, as the case may be, Deputy Chairman, shall stand removed from his office on the resolution being passed by a majority of the total membership of the Senate.”

A total of 53 votes is required to remove the chairman and deputy chairman from their offices. The opposition has a total of 67 members, one of whom (Ishaq Dar) has still not taken oath. Out of the remaining 66 senators, two belong to Jamaat-i-Islami, which has decided to abstain from the proceedings.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was informed on Tuesday that Section 144 imposed in parts of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) had been lifted.

During a meeting of the ECP on the upcoming Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly elections in tribal districts, Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza said complaints had been received from tribal districts about imposition of Section 144, hindering election campaigns of the candidates for the elections scheduled for July 20.

At this, a representative of the KP government said that Section 144 had been lifted on the directives of the ECP.

The meeting was attended, among others, by the KP’s additional chief secretary, home secretary, provincial election commissioner, representatives of security agencies and all district returning officers.

The meeting was informed that the ECP had completed all arrangements for the upcoming provincial assembly elections. It was told that army personnel would be deployed in and outside sensitive polling stations and outside all other stations.

The CEC directed that no development funds be released till the completion of the electoral exercise. He asked the district returning officers to strictly enforce the code of conduct for political parties and candidates and discharge their duties with impartiality.

The KP government assured that besides the sensitive polling stations, all efforts were being made to install security cameras at the maximum number of polling stations.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad told the meeting the commission was making all-out efforts to ensure that maximum number of electorates exercise their right to franchise.

He said efforts were being made to make it sure that women voters cast their votes in an independent environment. He said that with a view to making the security for women voters more efficient, female security staff would be deployed at women and combined polling stations.

Meanwhile, a last-ditch effort to evolve a consensus on the vacant positions of members of the ECP from Sindh and Balochistan failed with a voting ending on tie — 6-6. The voting took place during a meeting of the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members. The 12-member panel has equal representation from the government and the opposition.

Talking to reporters after what could be the last meeting of the parliamentary committee, Human Rights Minister Dr Shirin Mazari said a consensus could not be reached with the opposition and now minutes of the meetings would be conveyed to the prime minister and the law ministry would give its opinion on how to move about.

The Constitution is silent on the way forward in case of such a stalemate in a parliamentary committee.

The ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch — retired in January and under the law new members were to be appointed within 45 days.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2019

Amid deadlock to resolve the pending issue of appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the opposition parties have decided to approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan, sources familiar with the matter told on Tuesday.

The recent political strife between the government and the opposition had resulted in missing the constitutional deadline of 45 days for the appointment of two members of the ECP as both parties have rejected each other’s proposed nominees for the vacant seats.

According to the Constitution, the premier and the opposition leader forward three names to the parliamentary committee after having consensus over the matter. However, if no agreement is reached between them, they can propose three names separately for the designation(s).

Then, the parliamentary committee with a two-third majority can choose one name from the total six. But, if any deadlock arises between members of the parliamentary committee over the matter, then the Constitution does not guide further.

About six months have passed since the retirement of members of the ECP from Sindh and Balochistan, and yesterday the parliamentary committee – that has equal representatives from the government and the opposition – rejected names forwarded by both the prime minister and the opposition.

Earlier, PTI minister Shireen Mazari stated that ‘they’ had decided to settle the matter by allowing the opposition to select a member from Balochistan, and the other member would be chosen by their party.

“Opposition wants to bring its member from the Sindh”, she added. It constitutional crises pertaining to the appointment in ECP.

On June 11, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif proposed the names of Abdul Rasool Memon, Khalid Javed and Noorul Haq Qureshi for the appointment of ECP member from Sindh.

He proposed the names of Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Salahuddin Mengal and Mohammad Rauf Ata for the vacant post of the ECP member from Balochistan.

Shehbaz Shariz, then, forwarded the list of reviewed names to Prime Minister Imran Khan, and wrote in his letter that the constitutional responsibility will not be fulfilled if consensus is not reached.

Article 215 (4) inserted in the Constitution through the 22nd Amendment reads, “Vacancy in the office of the commissioner or a member shall be filled within 45 days.”

On April 2, PM Imran Khan wrote a letter to the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Shahbaz Sharif, seeking his suggestions in writing.

In a four-page letter, the PM rejected all objections and allegations hurled by Sharif that the federal government was violating the Constitution by delaying the appointment of the ECP members from Balochistan and Sindh provinces.

Earlier, Sharif wrote a letter to PM Khan for opposing his method of consultation over the appointment of ECP members through nominees and accused the government for violating the Constitution by impeding the filling of two vacancies.

Sharif had maintained that the PM was reluctant to hold a direct consultation with him, and termed it a major factor behind the delay.

PM Imran Khan had suggested the names of Amanullah Baloch, ex-district and sessions judge, Quetta; Munir Kakar, a lawyer; and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and a former caretaker minister in the provincial government, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Balochistan.

He had further proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer, retired Justice Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court (SHC), and Iqbal Mehmood, retired inspector-general Sindh, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Sindh.

“The entire idea of sending you the letter and the present one is to enter into an effective, meaningful, purposive and consensus-oriented process of consultation, leaving no room of complaint of arbitrariness or unfair play,” the letter had stated.

The ECP had written a letter to the federal government for the designation of new members till March 13 while the body has been incomplete for six weeks after its members from Sindh and Balochistan retired on Jan 26.

PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday took notice of launching of “Insaf Rozgar Scheme” for youth of tribal districts by provincial government, terming it violation of election code of conduct and directed the chief minister to postpone the ceremony till completion of election process in these districts.

A letter was sent to chief minister’s principal secretary by the deputy director, Naveedur Rehman, of the office of provincial election commissioner, wherein it was mentioned that the publicity/news item, which appeared in a local newspaper about distribution of interest-free loans in tribal districts, was in violation of the code of conduct issued by ECP for the provincial assembly elections in merged districts where polling would be held on July 20.

However, by the time ECP took notice of the issue, the function at Chief Minister’s House had already been held in the morning.

ECP provincial spokesman Sohail Khan told Dawn that as the advertisement in question appeared on Thursday, the commission took prompt action and issued the letter to the chief minister.

He said that after receiving reply from the government, the commission would look into the matter to decide future course of action.

He said that ECP had been keeping vigilant eye on stakeholders involved in electioneering so that they should not violate the code of conduct.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan vide notification No F.8 (2)/2019-Cord (1) dated May 6, 2019 has imposed a ban on all developmental schemes in constituencies, where election is under process till culmination of election process,” the letter sent to chief minister states.

“In light of foregoing the ceremony being arranged at the Chief Minister Secretariat is a violation of the above instructions and code of conduct issued by ECP. You are, therefore, required to defer the planned ceremony till completion of election process in merged districts and in case of non-compliance, the matter will be reported to the Honourable Commission for further necessary action,” says the letter.

Meanwhile, the district returning officers of Kurram and Khyber tribal districts have issued notices to Senior Minister Mohammad Atif Khan, MNA Iqbal Afridi and PTI candidate for PK-107, Khyber-III, Zubair Afridi, respectively, for violating the code of conduct.

In notice to MNA Iqbal Afridi, the DRO pointed out that he had participated in a public gathering in Tapa Sultankhel, Wazirabad Kallay, where he had declared full support to PTI candidate Zubair Afridi, which was violation of para-17 of the code of conduct issued by ECP.

The DRO directed the MNA and the candidate to appear before him on June 24.

In case of Atif Khan, the office of provincial election commissioner had sent a letter to the DRO Kurram and the district monitoring officer regarding visit of the senior minister to the district and announcement of several schemes, which was reported in local newspapers on June 20.

The DRO Kurram issued notice to Atif Khan, asking him to clarify his position till June 26.

ISLAMABAD  –   The pending matter of appointing members of the Election Commission of Pakistan from Sindh and Balochistan may finally land in the Supreme Court.

“The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader could not reach a consensus and the parliamentary committee has equal strength of opposition and government, so the last option will be the Supreme Court to decide about the issue,” PML-N senior lawmaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi said this while talking to The Nation here on Wednesday.

There are dim chances that the over two-month old issue is resolved at the parliamentary committee level where both government and opposition have equal strength of members, Abbasi revealed.

“The members of government and opposition may not be able to finalize ECP members names due to equal strength, so the government side should at least take proceed to resolve it,” the OML-N leader said.

Abbasi said the government side should not further delay this important matter as the deadline in this regard has already been passed.

“The PTI’s government has missed the constitutional deadline for appointing the members within 45 days,” said the former deputy speaker.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif could not reach a consensus on the ECP members’ name as both have their own choices.

The ECP members Abdul Ghaffar Soomro from Sindh and Justice (retd) Shakeel Baloch from Balochistan had retired on January 26, 2019 and their replacement under the Constitution should have been done by March 12, 2019.

On the other hand, the government side has yet to make any plan for further deliberation on this matter.

Talking to The Nation, the chairperson of parliamentary committee on the appointment of the ECP members Dr. Shireen Mazari said no meeting has been summoned as yet.

Constitutional experts view that the appointment of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan from Sindh and Balochistan is a constitutional matter, which should be resolved immediately.

Shehbaz Sharif had recommended six names for the vacant seats of both the provinces totally against the names proposed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. For ECP member from Balochistan, he recommended the names of Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Chief Justice (Retd) Muhammad Noor Meskenzai and Muhammad Rauf Ata for their nomination.

He had also recommended the names of Justice (Retd) Abdul Rasool Memon, Khalid Javed and Justice (Retd) Noorul Haq Qureshi for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Sindh.

The prime minister, from the government side, had suggested the names of Aman Ullah Baloch (former district and sessions judge, Quetta), Munir Kakar (a lawyer) and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch (a former caretaker minister) for nomination as a member of the ECP from Balochistan.

For Sindh, he had proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer; Justice (Retd) Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court; and Iqbal Mehmood, retired inspector general of Sindh, for nomination as a member of the ECP from Sindh.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the decision of Lahore High Court (LHC) in Samina Khawar Hayat fake degree  case.

The ECP, in its petition, prayed the court to accept the ECP petition and  void the LHC decision.

The petition pointed out that earlier the trial court not only gave verdict in  favour of Samina Khawar Hayat but also directed to stop the criminal  proceedings after verification of degree.

The LHC also maintained the trial court order.