Parliamentary oversight of ECP proposed
ISLAMABAD: The Senate Special Committee on Election Issues has proposed parliamentary oversight of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as a long term goal of the evolutionary process of electoral reform.
Headed by Leader of House Jehangir Badr, the committee in a report prepared by it to finalise proposed amendments to the Representation of People’s Act, recommended a permanent committee of each house of parliament or a joint committee comprising members from both houses of parliament to deal with electoral issues.
“The committee should be mandated to introduce a framework for parliamentary oversight of the ECP and to work on further improvement of a sustainable electoral framework,” said the report, a copy of which is available with Dawn.
Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim could not be contacted for comments. But observers believe that the idea of “oversight” may offend the ECP which has been asserting its independence after serving as a toothless body for years.
The committee rejected a proposed amendment to empower the ECP to initiate and finalise disciplinary action against any government official for any act calculated to influence the poll results.
It would not be appropriate to create a parallel forum for disciplinary action against officials tasked with holding polls because forums were already available for this purpose, it said.
Under the amended version of the proposed amendment, the ECP will refer the matter to the concerned department which will appoint an officer to initiate proceedings under Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules or the Act.
The proposal for publication of a list of polling stations was also amended by the committee to add: “The ECP will ensure that the list will be affixed in the offices of relevant union councils and made available on the commission website and through SMS.”
The committee rejected as ultra vires an ECP proposal to enhance period of scrutiny of candidates’ nomination papers from the existing seven days to 30 days, pointing out that under Article 224 of the Constitution, election to the National Assembly or a provincial assembly would be held within 60 days of the expiry of the term of the assembly. Election schedule will extend beyond 60 days if the proposal is adopted.
However, the committee agreed to enhance the period to 14 days, which will not require an amendment to the Constitution.
It rejected a suggestion to increase the nomination fee for NA candidates from Rs4,000 to Rs50,000 and for PA from Rs2,000 to Rs20,000. It proposed an increase to the tune of Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 for NA and Rs4,000 to Rs5,000 for PA.
The committee said the security deposit should be refundable, except for the candidates who failed to obtain one-eighth of the total polled votes.
Noting that capture of a polling station was a heinous act, the committee recommended an increase in the fine amount up to Rs500,000.
It recommended a ban on hoardings, panaflex and banners during election campaign and stringent penalties like seven years imprisonment to make it a non-bailable offence.