Govt opposition must talk: Fawad Chaudhry, the Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting, emphasized on Tuesday the importance of the government and opposition discussing and reaching an agreement on electoral reforms proposed by the former, alleging that the latter continued to avoid the issue because it could already see itself losing the next elections.
In a speech to the National Assembly (NA), Chaudhry reminded that the draught for electoral changes was introduced in October of last year, proposing 49 revisions to restore election legitimacy. On October 16, 2020, the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2020 was introduced in the National Assembly, and it was approved by the relevant standing committee on June 8, despite opposition protests.
More financial autonomy for the Election Commission of Pakistan is proposed in the bill, as is the right of an aggrieved person on delimitation lists to appeal to the Supreme Court, a provision to challenge the appointment of polling officers/staff within 15 days of appointment, and an increase in the nomination fee from Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 for NA candidates and from Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 for provincial candidates.
The usage of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the right to vote for Pakistanis living abroad have been particularly criticized by opposition parties. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has indicated that it may not support the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government’s planned electoral reforms.
PPP Secretary-General and former Senate Chairperson Nayyar Hussain Bukhari have described the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms as a toothless organization with no mandate or power.
In a recent development, Shehbaz Sharif, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, urged Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja to convene an all-party conference to build consensus on electoral reforms so that future elections in the country are held fairly and transparently and reflect the genuine will of the electorate.
Chaudhry, on the other hand, has dismissed the notion as absurd and amounted to bypassing parliament. He remarked We encouraged the opposition to consider these measures, leaving our differences aside, during his address to the NA on Tuesday. But, since they know they won’t be able to field enough people to fight all 1,100 seats, they’re already propagating the idea that the next elections will be rigged – two years before the polls are planned.
The PPP and PML-N, according to Chaudhry, are unable to file more than 400 to 450 candidates since their power is now limited to Sindh and central Punjab, respectively. As a result, they believe it is vital to push the narrative that the upcoming elections will be rigged by thorough planning. They can see Imran Khan forming the government for the next five years.
He went on to say that if the opposition refused to cooperate with the government on election reforms, it may put up its ideas in parliament. The federal minister also emphasized the importance of a dialogue between the opposition and the government on judicial changes and Afghanistan policy. We need to talk about judicial reforms, he added, adding that Pakistan’s court system had several flaws, which had resulted in the country’s ranking in the corruption perception index dropping. Govt opposition must talk
He emphasized that one of the issues that the government and opposition must debate as part of the judicial reforms is the selection of judges. We also need to meet down together to establish an Afghanistan policy, he added. According to Chaudhry, the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating as a result of the US army withdrawal, which will have a spillover impact in Pakistan. He emphasized that we must work hard to develop a policy [on Afghanistan].
He stated that while PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif was vociferous about the need for the government and the opposition to set aside their differences and participate in dialogue to address the country’s major concerns during his statements in the House, he seemed to have little say in his own party. Govt opposition must talk
In the PML-N, it appears that someone else makes decisions, and they must first determine who has that authority. He remarked that this individual may then represent them in negotiations with the government. While the opposition had the right to criticize the administration, he said they also had a responsibility to offer comments on many topics and help improve the system.
‘A decade of gloom’
Earlier in his speech, Chaudhry blamed the opposition for Pakistan’s current economic problems, claiming that the repayment of loans made by previous governments impeded growth. We have not been able to boost the defence budget in line with our neighbours for the third or fourth year since a large sum must be spent on repaying loans obtained by the PPP and PML-M governments in the past, he lamented. The minister referred to the ten years between 2008 and 2018 — when the PML-N and PPP were the ruling parties at the Centre — as a decade of darkness. Govt opposition must talk
According to him, Pakistan’s foreign debt was roughly Rs6,000 billion between 1947 and 2008, and by 2018, it had risen to around Rs26,000 billion. Every year, we must pay Rs2,000 billion in interest. The minister went on to argue that previous administrations’ loans were used to fund projects that turned out to be ineffective. In Sahiwal, where there is no coal, they built a coal-fired power plant. Coal had to be transported from Karachi, and owing to their lack of planning, we witnessed the creation of an environmental problem.
He also stated that the previous governments’ electrical projects between 2008 and 2018 were unneeded because the country’s overall ability to offer electricity to families at the time was 1,400 megawatts. Why did you build new [electricity generation] plants when you couldn’t distribute any more electricity? Chaudhry was perplexed. Govt opposition must talk
The minister singled out the PPP, Sindh’s ruling party, for blame for the province’s lack of progress. He alleged the province’s uplift monies were embezzled and ended up in Dubai or Canada. The fundamental problem in Pakistan’s system is that only two families have been in control [for years], and they have continued to spend the money on homes in Dubai, Paris, London, and Panama, he said. He went on to say that Imran Khan was Pakistan’s only hope.
He gave an example, saying that before the first Covid-19 case was recorded in Pakistan, the country imported the majority of its medical supplies.
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