Politicians’ barbs fail to unsettle ECP
ISLAMABAD: A PPP senator criticised Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim on Friday for making a telephone call to Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and termed it an act which amounted to ‘pre-poll rigging’. At the same time, Senator Saeed Ghani, in the course of his speech in the upper house of parliament, endorsed the views expressed by the leader of opposition about the ‘inappropriate language’ used in a letter written by the Election Commission of Pakistan to 249 lawmakers.
“It was a move to malign politicians,” the senator said.
He said the ECP should concentrate on measures for holding elections rather than attempting to purify the entire country.
When contacted, Justice (retd) Ebrahim neither confirmed nor denied having made a call to the Leader of Opposition. He simply said: “They can move the Supreme Court if I had done anything wrong.”
About objections to verification of degrees of lawmakers, he said commission had been given certain directions by the Supreme Court and “we have to follow them”.
Senator Saeed Ghani was of the view that the ECP would lose its credibility if it continued to act on what he termed instructions from certain media houses.
“The credibility of the ECP is at stake as it is taking guidelines from specific media groups,” he claimed.
The Chief Election Commissioner had made the call to Chaudhry Nisar because of his reaction to the ECP’s letter threatening to start criminal proceedings against 249 lawmakers if they failed to provide their matric and FA degrees within 15 days.
Although details of the telephonic conversation between the CEC and the Leader of Opposition are not known, it is understood that the subject was the ECP’s letter. The commission issued a statement on Friday making it clear that it stood by its decision on the issue of fake degrees.
“The ECP is steadfastly determined to implement the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in letter and spirit and the process of verification of degrees shall be completed so as to achieve the objective of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution,” the statement said.
The ECP had written letters to 249 lawmakers seeking their educational certificates for onward verification from the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
An official of the ECP said that matric and FA certificates were required by the Higher Education Commission for verification of graduation degrees of lawmakers.
Senate chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari proposed that the Parliamentary Committee on Election Issues should look into the mater of degrees’ verification.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Ishaq Dar said that although it was not in the terms of reference of the committee it would look into it.
Mr Dar claimed that the demand for extending time for scrutiny of candidates from seven to 30 days was unconstitutional as elections were to be held within 60 days after completion of the term of assemblies, and after the proposed amendment the election schedule would go beyond the period.
Ishaq Dar also urged the chair to ask the government to brief the house on the economic situation as well as terrorism. He expressed concern over the change of five finance ministers during the five-year term of the government. He said that in his opinion, the house should be informed about the exact condition of the economy so that a way forward could be suggested. He also said that Interior Minister Rehman Maik was not ready to give an in-camera briefing to the house although he himself had made repeated offers to that effect. The chief whip of PPP said that an approval from the prime minister was needed for an in-camera briefing, adding that a request had already been made to him.
Senator Zahid Khan rejected the claim of interior minister that the law and order situation was the prime responsibility of provinces and said that all intelligence agencies were under the administrative control of the federal government except the special branch of police.
“Why he seeks reports from provinces on law and order if it was not his responsibility,” he asked.
Senator Sughra Imam of PPP said that several issues which were required to be resolved prior to elections still remained unaddressed. She said that electoral rolls had not been dispatched to constituencies concerned and 3.7 million voters had neither their biometric fingerprints nor photographs on the rolls. The house will meet again on Monday.