In press conference, Adviser to P.M. Babar Awan says government will summon joint sitting of Parliament to enact legislation if opposition does not cooperate
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government on Wednesday vowed to enact by year’s end legislation for the use of electronic voting machines in future elections, as well as I-voting for overseas Pakistanis—whether or not the opposition supports them.
“The legislative process which we have started regarding EVMs and I-voting for overseas Pakistanis will be completed within the year 2021 through the Senate or even a joint sitting of Parliament,” Adviser to the P.M. on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan told a press conference in Islamabad alongside Special Assistant to the P.M. on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill.
He said bills seeking the required amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 had already been passed by the National Assembly and were currently pending before the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. Per the Constitution, he said, the committee had until Sept. 14 to approve the bill.
Pakistan’s Constitution states that if a bill is not passed by both Houses within 90 days of each other, it must be referred to a joint sitting of Parliament. The PTI lacks a majority in Senate but it and its allied parties enjoy a majority in the National Assembly. According to Awan, the combined numbers of a joint sitting are sufficient to allow the government to enact the law.
Claiming that the 2023 general elections would be held in a transparent and fair manner in cooperation with the Election Commission of Pakistan, he said the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had sought Rs. 2.2 billion for technical support related to I-voting.
The adviser took special aim at the opposition’s refusal to debate the issue with the government, reiterating the PTI’s accusations of opposition parties trying to pressure authorities to half the accountability process and shut down the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He also claimed the opposition was in “contempt of court” through its opposition to the government’s desire to the right of vote at their place of residence to overseas Pakistanis.
Awan claimed the opposition was criticizing EVMs before testing them. He claimed the government had not prepared the machines—a change from claims by the Science and Technology Ministry—and the public would be given demonstrations of their use prior to their deployment in polls.
To a question, he claimed the government did not require a constitutional amendment for either EVMs I-voting, adding that it would only be needed to allow dual nationals to contest general elections.