Election rigging probe committee approved in Pakistan

National Assembly approves parliamentary body with equal representation of ruling party, opposition lawmakers

Islamabad: Pakistan’s National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday approved the formation of a parliamentary committee with equal number of government, opposition lawmakers to investigate allegations of rigging in the July 25 general elections.

A government lawmaker said the issue, which was kept pending since Imran Khan’s election from the National Assembly last month, now stands resolved as far as constitution of a probe committee is concerned.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had boycotted the Presidential Address to the Parliament because of what it said was the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s backtracking on its earlier commitment.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi presented the motion in the Lower House of the Parliament, which was unanimously approved by the NA.

The session was convened to approve amendments to the budget.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the National Assembly’s session.

Before approval of the motion, there was an exchange of comments from both sides of the House and member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Shazia Marri suggested an opposition lawmaker should chair the probe committee.

According to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the probe body would have equal representation from the government and the opposition, however responding to Marri’s suggestion, he stressed that a government lawmaker would be chairperson of the committee, while no members of the Senate would sit on it.

Qureshi had earlier announced that the probe committee would have proportionate representation from the treasury and opposition benches.

However, after talks with opposition leaders, the government agreed to equal representation from either side.

The parliamentary committee will prepare the Terms of Reference (ToR) to investigate the charges of rigging in July 25 elections, Qureshi said, adding that the body would be fully “empowered”.

Later talking to media, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the committee would be independent and address all doubts the opposition might have.

“This has been our principled stand that all such allegations of rigging should be probed and findings of the investigation should be made public,” Chaudhry said.

It may be noted here that not only PML-N and PPP had raised allegations of rigging in July 25 elections but Leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman, MQM and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders and those of the nationalist parties of Balochistan had also termed the elections engineered and rigged and demanded a thorough inquiry into the manner the elections were held.

PML-N president and Opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had questioned failure of Result Transmission System (RTS), a software developed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) at expense of Rs20 billion (Dh1 billion) for in-time transmission of election results.

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