ISLAMABAD: In an unusual show of concord to settle discord, the government and opposition parties in the National Assembly agreed on Thursday to set up a multi-party house committee to probe complaints of rigging in the May 11 elections and suggest electoral reforms to evolve better checks.
Interior Minister Chau-dhry Nisar Ali Khan assured the house that all government agencies would help the committee in carrying out its investigation, which he suggested cover up to 40 National Assembly constituencies in all the four provinces of the country rather than just four constituencies as demanded by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan.
With agreement from both the treasury and opposition benches, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, who chaired the proceedings at the time, asked leaders of all parliamentary groups in the house to name their party representatives for a meeting with the house speaker on Friday to formulate the proposed committee’s terms of reference — a task he said could be completed in three days.
Chaudhry Nisar proposed the formation of the committee after informing the house about a letter he said he had received from the PTI deputy chairman, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, asking the minister to follow through on an offer he made during the budget session in June for a probe in up to 40 constituencies in response to Imran Khan’s demand for a verification of ballots in at least four constituencies by comparing voters’ thumb impressions on counterfoils with those on their computerised national identity cards.“Four seats are too few, let it be for 20 seats or 40 seats,” he said, repeating what he had said in his June speech, adding that 20 seats should be referred for a probe by the government and 20 by the opposition from all the four provinces.
The minister told the house that the PTI letter, which he held in his hand while speaking, had suggested some terms of reference for the committee, some of which, he said, were acceptable to the government while others could be negotiated.Chaudhry Nisar’s suggestion was endorsed first by Mr Qureshi, who said his party had “no objection to the minister’s proposal”, then by former speaker Fehmida Mirza from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who called it a “very positive” move, and lastly by opposition leader Khurshid Ahmed Shah, who said it should have been done much earlier, yet he would agree with what he called a case of “better late than never”.
The interior minister offered what he called a “blank cheque” of help from “all (government) institutions” to the probe committee, which he said should submit its “recommendations before the nation within a month”.All those found involved in rigging “must be exposed”, whether it is Election Commission, returning officers, or any caretaker government he said, adding: “They must be put in the dock.”“The government wants to give all powers to this committee,” the minister said, referring to the committee’s possible investigating powers.
STANDING COMMITTEES: After a delay of more than a month, the government presented lists of 33 house standing committees and a special committee on Kashmir, but their approval by the house was deferred for what the interior minister suggested as “one or two days” after three opposition parties complained of deficient representation.Defence Production Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed pressed for an immediate approval of the committees with an assurance to the PTI, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jamaat-i-Islami that their grievances over representation could be removed later as the speaker would be empowered to make amends, the chair deferred the matter after Chaudhry Nisar said there would be no harm if there was delay for another “day or two”.
FROM RAGE TO CAUTION ON EGYPT: The interior minister seemed furious at the start of the sitting when he called for a condemnation of what he called a “carnage” by Egyptian security forces in removing two prolonged sit-ins of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s supporters in Cairo in a bloody operation on Wednesday.But a resolution unanimously passed by the house much later was more cautious as it only expressed “great dismay and concern” over the use of force against the protesters and called for restraint by the Egyptian government and dialogue to resolve the crisis.
“This house expresses its full support for the brotherly people of Egypt and calls upon the government of Pakistan to convey to the government of Egypt its deep concern over the assault on unarmed civilians and the loss of so many innocent lives,” said the resolution, which was apparently drafted by the foreign ministry but moved by a Jamaat member, Sahibzada Tariqullah.“The government of Egypt should be urged to show restraint and to resolve the constitutional, legal and political issues though dialogue amongst all the parties so that democracy can be restored as soon as possible in accordance with the wishes of the people,” it said. – Dawn