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Sunday, July 3, 2022
EditorialControversial legislation sans consensus

Controversial legislation sans consensus

The government’s agility to pass the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the National Assembly has created a general skepticism. The first bill is aimed at abandoning the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections and depriving overseas Pakistanis from voting while the second legislation relates to stopping the misuse of the law and victimisation of politicians and rivals. The government has reasons for passing the bills aimed at reverting changes introduced by the previous government, but one thing that has not been taken account once again is the absence of consensus. In fact, the national politics is turning into a game of vested interests. Each political party keeps its own interest supreme and is busy manipulating the legislation process upon its turn after coming into power. The EVMs are not being used on the ground that the technology is not reliable and there is every chance that it could be misused. It is argued that there are many areas in the country that do not have access to the internet and the system still can face technical glitches making room for election maneuvering. The denial of voting rights to overseas Pakistan also has a background. It was the PTI that had moved a bill in its tenure for granting voting rights to expat Pakistanis. It is being perceived that Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf could benefit from granting of the vote to expats. Many experts predict that PTI stands the most to gain from the move, as it has a ‘significant’ following among those overseas citizens who are disillusioned with the country’s two mainstream political parties, including the PML-N and PPP. Imran Khan potentially stands to benefit the most, given the groundswell of political support for him overseas. The ‘influence’ of overseas Pakistanis on the national politics cannot be ruled out. They have become the biggest export of this country as they send remittances to the tune of $30 billion annually. Every expat and overseas national has big families and friends back home and their opinion does matter during every election.

The second bill relates to amendments in the accountability process. Currently, the PML-N and PPP are under the radar of the NAB and their leadership has been facing various inquiries. Therefore, changes introduced mostly relate to clipping the powers of NAB as tough conditions have been imposed for officials probing financial irregularities. The onus of providing evidence has been put on NAB officials and any lapse in performing their duty as per law can result in their imprisonment. In a democratic process, any legislation without taking opposition on board can bring disastrous results. The use of electronic machines for voting in Pakistan has its own pros and cons. It cannot be implemented all at once as a large percentage of population is illiterate. Moreover, depriving overseas nationals of right to vote should also be given a second thought. If one dislikes the right to franchise by overseas nationals, then those with dual nationalities should also be not made a part of any government and the government needs to make self-dependence a top priority to avoid any influence of those sitting abroad and deciding the fate of their countrymen back at home. At the same time, clipping the powers of NAB is not a solution. The institution should be scrapped or made stronger enough to conduct impartial inquiries against any corrupt person irrespective of his status in the society. Last but not the least, self-reliance and stronger and across the board accountability seems to be panacea for all problems.

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