Federal Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati on Friday accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of taking bribes and being on the payroll of ‘someone’.
Swati said that the ECP was responsible for destroying Pakistan’s democracy and for rigging all elections. Swati added that such institutions should be “set on fire”. This happened when the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs met today to vote on two key election bills.
When the meeting started, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said that the government would like to respond to the ECP’s 37 objections to the proposed introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs). While Awan was giving the government’s answers point-by-point to the ECP’s objections, suddenly Azam Swati interjected and accused the ECP of taking money. Opposition members present in the meeting strongly objected to this accusation and protested.
As the Opposition members were protesting, ECP representatives present in the meeting all got up and said that they will not tolerate such behaviour and are boycotting the meeting. ECP representatives then walked out.
Chair Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs Senator Taj Haider asked a few Opposition members to go and talk to the ECP representatives so as to bring them back to the meeting. By the time Senator Kamran Murtaza went to bring them back, the ECP delegation had left the building.
Meanwhile, Azam Swati kept hurling accusations at the ECP even after the constitutional body’s representatives had left. Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and other Opposition members condemned Swati’s remarks and said that he cannot accuse a constitutional body of taking bribes, and asked for proof.
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar asked Swati: “Kis se paisay pakrray hain ECP ne? Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) se ya Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) se?”
[Translation: Tell us who has given money to the ECP? PPP or PML-N?]
Swati and Khokhar then had a heated exchange.
“I told Swati that the government should stop browbeating the ECP. It is a constitutional body. How can the government accuse a body of taking bribes without any proof — only because the ECP does not agree with the government on EVMs? Such accusations are shameful,” Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar told The Current. Senator Khokhar added that the government must apologise to the ECP.
After things calmed down, Babar Awan asked for permission to continue with his answers to the ECP objections. He was then told that since the ECP members are not present anymore, he cannot continue in their absence. The standing committee then decided to vote on the amendments but the government raised objections as Senator Samina Mumtaz Zehri was not present in the meeting. Due to her absence, the Opposition members were in majority today. The government asked that she should be allowed to vote via video link.
According to sources, Senator Zehri had missed her flight from Karachi in the morning. The government wanted to delay the voting till she could take a flight and reach Islamabad after the Friday prayers. It should be noted that Senator Samina Zehri had been included in the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs by Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani in order to tilt the balance towards the government in the Senate panel, as per Dawn.
The Senate panel rejected the government’s proposed amendments but the government members walked out and did not take part in the voting process and walked out.
Babar Awan tweeted that the government will get the two election bills passed through a joint session of parliament.