Pandemonium as joint session passes electoral reforms bill

ISLAMABADThe government has succeeded in railroading the controversial Electoral Amendment Bill, 2021 giving voting rights to millions of overseas Pakistanis and allowing the use of Electronic Voting Machines.

The government also passed a plethora of bills including State Bank of Pakistan Banking Services Corporation Amendment Bill, Registration and Regulations of Welfare Institutes Bill, Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav Bill, National College of Arts Institute Bill, and two bills related to Muslim Family Law.

The passage of the electoral reforms bill triggered the opposition to tear copies of the agenda and walk out of the joint session in protest.

Lawmakers also gathered around the treasury benches, chanting slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government. Sergeant in arms were in action to avert any incident.

Earlier, the joint session of parliament has accepted the motion of tabling the Electoral Amendment Reforms Bill, 2021, defeating the Opposition by 18 votes but soon the process went into recount as demanded by the PPP.

Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan moved the motion during the joint session of Parliament on Wednesday. The motion seeking tabling of the Electoral (Amend) Reform Bill, 2021 was adopted by the house with 221 votes in favour and 203 against the move.

However, PPP’s Taj Haider objected to the counting of votes, pleading a recount. Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser while accepting his request ordered for the recount.

Ten members of the opposition remained absent while 6 treasury MPs were missing during the voting. The government defeated the opposition by 18 votes.

The opposition members started protesting in front of the speaker’s dais. They raised slogans of “Vote thieves, vote thieves”. There was total mayhem in the house.

The members of treasury and opposition benches indulged in a verbal and physical brawl. The sergeant at arms intervened and tried to calm the situation. They also surrounded Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The speaker ordered the treasury members to move to the right and asked the opposition members to move to the left. He also forbade them from using mobile phones. But the speaker failed to maintain order in the house.

Seeing the pandemonium, Speaker Qaiser held the voice voting. He set aside the opposition reservations. Murtaza Javed Abbasi tore the copies of the house agenda and flung them towards the speaker. Mr. Abbasi also exchanged hot words with Shehryar Afridi and Murad Saeed.

The speaker resented Mr. Abbasi’s action saying you too remained deputy speaker and it did not behoove you.

Earlier, the joint session began with a heavy presence of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. .

PM Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan presented the bills in the joint session.

The opposition has asked its members to reach the parliament house as the opposition has planned to stage a protest during the address of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the joint session.

Former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari also reached the house just as the joint session of the parliament began.

MNA Amir Liaquat also landed at the parliament and when asked him when he was here as he was not happy with the PTI, Amir Liaquat said “I did not come here myself, I was brought to the parliament.”

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif addressed the opposition parliamentary parties’ meeting and expressed their resolve to defeat the government’s anti-public legislations in the joint session. They vowed to go to court if the government forcefully tried to bulldoze the legislation through parliament.

Addressing the National Assembly members of the opposition, Bilawal Bhutto said whatever the result came out after the joint parliamentary session if the opposition remained united afterward it would be a great message for the people of the country.

He regretted that the federal government put the Sindh government’s reservation over census as last item on the joint session agenda.

In a surprise move, PML-N leader Shaista Pervaiz Malik who was reported to be skipping the joint session on account of her husband Pervaiz Malik’s death has reached the Parliament House to attend the joint parliamentary session.

Many members of the opposition will not attend the joint session of the parliament being held today (Wednesday).

Reportedly, Balochistan National Party (Mengal) Chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal will not participate in the session as he is out of country. Syed Naveed Qamar will also skip the session. PML-N leader Shaista Pervaiz Malik will not be able to take part in parliamentary sitting as she is observing Idat after the death of her husband Pervaiz Malik.

Leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and MNA Ali Wazir will not be attending as he is in prison. PPP MNA Nawab Yousuf Talpur could not participate due to his illness.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari after arriving in Parliament House went into the chamber of Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif and discussed with him joint strategy of the opposition. Shehbaz warmly welcome the PPP leader and discussed with him various issues.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that whatever his rival will do he will do better.

Talking to newsmen at parliament house on Wednesday, Imran Khan said “when a player goes into the field he is prepared for everything.” He was replying to a query when asked that the Opposition is claiming a surprise for him.

When a newsman asked him why he was holding so many meetings, are you worried, the prime minister counter-questioned the newsman asking whom he was holding talks with?

Addressing the parliamentary party meeting, Imran Khan directed the lawmakers to ensure their presence during the joint session.

According to sources, BNP-M chief Akhtar Mengal is not expected to attend the joint session of Parliament today. It was learnt that Akhtar Mengal is out of the country, so he could not attend the joint session.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was in a habit of launching missions every now and then.

Just before the start of the joint session, he was again on a mission to tame JWP leader Shazain Bugti in support of the government. And as usual he was succeeded in persuading Shazain Bugti.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal exchanged unusual pleasantries on the eve of the joint session.

As Ahsan Iqbal landed at the Parliament House’s entrance, Asad Qaiser was already there. Ahsan was quick to remark “It was pleasant to see that the NA Speaker is here to welcome us.” On hearing that Asad Qaiser smiled and went away.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has said that allied parties are with the PTI and In Sha Allah the government will succeed today.  He was talking to the media on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said that Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated in the parliamentary meeting of the PTI that he did not want to introduce Electronic Voting Machines for his self, rather he wanted to make the democracy strong with the introduction of EVMs.

The government has summoned the joint parliamentary session in order to railroad bills including electoral reforms and I-voting for the overseas Pakistan. Both the bills are greatly contested by the opposition. However, the government is optimistic that it could pass the bills in the joint session.

As per the parliamentary numeric, the government has support of 221 members. In National Assembly, the government boasts support of 179 members including Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid whose brother has passed away today in Kot Radha Kishen. But hopefully he will attend the joint session.

The joint opposition has got support of 219 members in today’s joint session. The passage of the bills from the joint session is still tricky as government is leading only with three votes. Besides this, the government allies, PML-Q and MQM did have their reservations over the bills but the PTI government tried to allay their doubts.

Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad on Monday claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had removed all doubts of the allied parties and they had shown their confidence in him for supporting government bills in the joint session of the parliament.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has reached the Parliament House where is expected to chair the parliamentary party meeting of the PTI and its allies.

PML-N President and Opposition leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have reached the Parliament House.

While giving answers to journalists on his way to the Parliament House, Shehbaz said opposition had got the required numbers to defeat the government proposed bills.

To another query regarding whether his party would go to the court if government approved the bills or not, Shehbaz retorted: “We will use all options.”

Commenting on joint session of the parliament to be held today (Wednesday), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman has said that the ‘confused’ Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is twisting the arms of its own lawmakers to ensure passage of its bills.

In one of her tweets on Wednesday, she said that the opposition was united and that the government would have to taste defeat today.

In yet another tweet, Sherry mocked that it was the ‘Election Rigging Bill’, and not the Election Reforms Bill, that the government was going to get passed from the parliament today.

She went on to add that the federal government by doing so the federal government would make the next general elections ‘controversial’ right now. “All opposition parties are on the same page when it comes to opposition against the electronic voting machines (EVMs). Even the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has reservations over the use of these machines in elections,” PPP senator said, and added, “Using the occasion of a joint session of parliament to ‘bulldoze’ the bills is condemnable.”

However, Information Minister Ch Fawad said in his tweet on Wednesday that God willing the parliament will give the voting right to the overseas Pakistanis by passing the bill. In this way, the PTI government has fulfilled another of its election promise. TF Report

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