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Opposition Seeks New Committee for Electoral Reforms

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

In letter to Speaker Asad Qaiser, Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif says one committee should debate electoral reforms, and another should deliberate on other bills

The joint opposition on Sunday asked National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to establish a new parliamentary committee to debate electoral reforms, stressing it should be delinked from the Committee on Legislative Business, which should consider other bills passed by the Lower House but rejected by the Upper House of Parliament.

In a letter to Qaiser, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said that the Committee on Legislative Business had been formed on June 23 to consider 21 bills passed by the Lower House without following required legislative procedure. “The committee held three meetings on July 9, Aug. 30, and Sept. 9; no meeting of the committee was scheduled by the National Assembly Secretariat in the last 8 weeks,” it said, noting that the committee had failed to finalize its Terms of Reference “due to lack of support by the government.”

During this time, said Sharif, all the bills being considered by the committee had either lapsed or been rejected by the Senate and were immediately referred to a joint session of Parliament, negating the purpose for which it had been formed.

“The opposition believes that issues of national interest, especially legislation with wide-ranging, long-term impact on the people of Pakistan, should be resolved through consensus-oriented consultation,” it said, and provided a process that would be amenable to opposition parties. Firstly, wrote Sharif, a parliamentary committee should be formed by the speaker to consider and approve a “complete package” of electoral reforms. Secondly, the Committee on Legislative Business should consider all other bills not related to electoral reforms.

“We believe the above process to be in consonance with parliamentary practice and precedence to achieve the required consensus on issues of national importance,” he added.

The letter was penned after a meeting of the steering committee of the joint opposition on Sunday. The meeting, attended by senior leaders of all opposition parties, rejected the inclusion of Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Railways Minister Azam Swati in a committee constituted to appoint members to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Chaudhry and Swati have both been issued show-cause notices by the ECP over their tirades against the authority, and were included in the committee just two days earlier, replacing Senator Kamil Ali Agha of the PMLQ and Khalida Ateeb of the MQM.

Last week, speaker Qaiser wrote to the leader of the opposition and suggested utilizing the Committee on Legislative Business to develop “inclusive decision-making” and “build up consensus above party politics on all mega reforms of common interest” in the larger national interest.

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