LAHORE: Sensational! There is no other way to describe the Parliament’s joint session held in Islamabad on Wednesday that propelled the government back into the driving seat while sending the Opposition reeling with shock and disappointment.
The government sprang a real surprise by mustering the required number of votes for the amendment to electoral reforms pertaining to the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), granting of i-Voting rights to overseas Pakistanis and giving a right to appeal to Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav..
Needless to say, the Opposition is up in arms after the session and has called it a black day in the history of Pakistan.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif announced to go to the Supreme Court against the The Elections (Amendment) Act, 2021 while Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the incumbent government wanted to give NRO to Kulbhushan Yadav. “We will challenge these amendments to electoral reforms at the Supreme Court and at every other forum jointly,” he said.
Just how the tables were turned in the Wednesday’s session remains a mystery to many. However, a clearer picture started to emerge as the Bol News approached the legislators, leading political analysts and defence analysts for their opinion and how they perceived the successful approval of these laws tabled by Prime Minister Imran Khan-led federal government.
Aisha Saeed, a policy analyst based in Lahore, said what happened in the joint session was not entirely unexpected. “The current government has been trying to include overseas Pakistanis in elections after many of them returned to the country only to cast their votes,”she said. “The approval of the bill, of course, will help the PTI in its preparation for the next election,” she said. Ön the other hand, keeping Kulbhushan in custody is no longer serving any good for Pakistan. It’s very likely he has shared some classified information with the security authorities. Hence the right to appeal has been granted to him,” observed Aisha.
Agreeing with Aisha, sources privy to this development told Bol News that it’s an attempt to bring India to talks with Pakistan which could well be happening very soon.
Senior defence and political Analyst Lt. General (retd) Ghulam Mustafa said that the federal government pulled off a stunning victory by managing to get the use of EVMs and i-Voting rights for the expats approved from the joint session of the parliament.
“The strategy adopted by the premier and his team met with stupendous success, although they had to give some concessions to their allies to bring them on board and get these bills passed from the joint session of the parliament,” Lt Gen Mustafa said. “But what happened on Wednesday is not a new thing in Pakistan politics as wheeling and dealing is a routine matter in the country’s politics for decades. Such things are part and parcel of the parliamentary system, whether you consider it good or bad,” he maintained.
Mustafa, however, pointed out that although the bill had been passed, but without consensus. They (govt) had an open discussion on the use of EVM and i-Voting rights for the expats but the consensus had been missing,”he noted. “Though next elections will be held under these EVMs, it would have been better if a consensus have been reached. Anyhow, all marks to PM Imran and his government as of now the opposition has lost the numbers game.”
However, for Lt Gen (retd) Mustafa the issue of Kulbhushan Yadav remains a very sensitive and important one too and he said the opposition should have debated on it seriously. “Ahsan Iqbal even said that the government is giving NRO to him. Let me remind [PML-N] that going to the International Court of Justice was the idea of the PML-N government,” he recalled.
Mustafa added that his (Kulbhushan’s) conviction was through military courts and he had the right to appeal. “But there was no appeal made, quite deliberately. Kulbhushan had the right to appeal according to International laws or International court of justice and now he will have the right to appeal and whatever decision will come out the international community and the International Court of Justice will have to accept it,” he said.
“It was the only way forward for the PTI but the Opposition’s attitude on the Kulbhushan issue was unacceptable and non-serious,” Mustafa concluded.
Meanwhile, Ahsan Raza, a Lahore-based political analyst, told Bol News that though the government called it a historic day while the Opposition termed it as a black day, a middle way had to be found in order to move ahead.
For Ahsan, the amendment’s approval was a significant development and the fact thought of use of technology in counting of votes was exciting. “The government is doing the right thing to make the polls less controversial, if not fully transparent and fair,” he observed.
He recalled that The PML-N has been accused of rigging elections in connivance with the election staff and by using the government machinery. “Nawaz Sharif contested three elections – 1985, 1988, and 1990 – when he was a minister. He won the 1997 elections when there was an anti PPP caretaker government in place. This party has never been a fair player in elections, so for these reasons, they are once again opposing to change in election rules,” he said.