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Fawad Apologizes to ECP for Disparaging Remarks

by Newsweek Pakistan

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In statement, information minister says he respects country’s institutions but was acting as mouthpiece of government policy

Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday apologized to the Election Commission of Pakistan for disparaging the institution and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.

In September, the ECP had issued a show-case notice to Chaudhry and Railways Minister Azam Swati after they derided the institution over its concerns with hastily implementing the use of electronic voting machines in the next general elections. In a press conference, Chaudhry went so far as to accuse the CEC of acting as the opposition’s “mouthpiece” and urged him to step down and contest elections if he wanted to indulge in politics.

Swati, meanwhile, accused the ECP of “rigging” elections and—during a Senate meeting—claimed that such institutions should be “set on fire.”

In his hearing on Tuesday, Chaudhry said he had appeared to end the cycle of show-cause notices and responses. “My request is that this case is finished. I am a lawyer myself. I am a mouthpiece of the government. I did not curse anyone. Accept my apology,” he said. The ECP subsequently directed him to submit a written apology in addition to his verbal step-down.

In a subsequent press conference, he said he respected the country’s institutions and whatever he had said had been the policy of the federal cabinet and was not reflective of his personal views.

Swati was also due to appear before the ECP today but his counsel requested more time, claiming he was busy with Senate proceedings. In response, the ECP warned that charges would be framed against him at the next hearing whether or not he had submitted reply and adjourned the proceedings until Dec. 3.

The ECP issued show-cause notices to Fawad and Swati on Sept. 16, giving them a week to prove their allegations against the ECP and the CEC. On Sept. 23, Chaudhry sought six more weeks to submit a reply, but was given just three—till Oct. 19. Swati provided no response.

On Oct. 19, the ECP issued another notice to Chaudhry, asking him to personally appear before it on Oct. 27. When neither showed up for that hearing, a show-cause notice was issued for Nov. 16.

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