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Federal Cabinet approved Electoral Reforms Bill

08 February, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Tuesday approved the historic draft Electoral Reforms Bill prepared by the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms. The proposed law, which will grant financial and administrative autonomy to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), is expected to be presented before parliament next month for enactment.

The cabinet, which met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the chair, discussed a 33-point agenda. Later, Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb briefed the media on the decisions made by the cabinet.

Giving details of the draft Electoral Reforms Bill, Zahid Hamid said special measures would be undertaken to encourage enlistment of women voters in case there was a difference of more than 10 percent in the number of male and female votes. All the political parties would have to issue 5 percent tickets to female candidates on general seats. Disabled voters would be provided with the postal ballot facility, he added. He said delimitation of constituencies would be carried out after every 10 years.

Zahid Hamid said the recommendations for electoral reforms had been prepared with consensus by the parliamentary committee.

The Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms, he said, would mull over the required constitutional amendments before presentation of the reforms bill to parliament for approval.

He said the recommendations envisaged total financial, administrative and functional autonomy for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP would be empowered to take disciplinary action against officials deputed from other departments and ministries for election purposes.

The commission would be required to prepare a comprehensive action plan six months ahead of any elections to seek input and objections from the political parties and candidates, he said.

A formal complaint system, he added, would be introduced to lodge complaints about malpractices before elections and for their redressal.

The law minister said that votes would be counted and the result would be compiled at the polling station, and the Form-14 containing results, would be transmitted to the returning officer and the ECP through a mobile application to ensure prompt transmission of results.

In case victory margin was less than 5 percent or 10,000 votes, recounting would be mandatory, he added.

A uniform system of printing of ballot papers, he said, would be introduced for all constituencies.

Under the reforms package, he said a citizen would be automatically registered as a voter once he or she was issued a Computerised National Identity Card and no application would be needed for the purpose.

Speaking on the occasion, Marriyum Aurangzeb said that besides discussing the draft Electoral Reforms Bill, the cabinet under the Prime Minister's Healthcare Programme gave approval for the issuance of additional funds for treatment of patients suffering from fatal diseases, including kidney, liver and bone marrow transplant and various forms of cancer.

The cabinet decided that 46 modern hospitals, with a capacity of 100 to 500 beds each, would be built in all parts of the country on an emergency basis to provide the latest healthcare facilities to the poor, she said. The minister said the Health Infrastructure Development and Management Company (HIDMC) would be established.

She said the report of the cabinet committee constituted for the people affected by Indian firing on the Working Boundary was also discussed in the meeting. It was decided that Rs 500,000 compensation would be given to the heirs of each person martyred in Indian firing in Sialkot and Narowal sectors, and Rs 150,000 for the treatment of each seriously injured person. Moreover, 50 bunkers would be built along the Working Boundary so that people wandering off at vulnerable positions could take refuge there during shelling, she added. About Afghan refugees, she said the registered Afghan nationals would be allowed to live in Pakistan until December 31, 2017.

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