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Stay in limits, MPs tell ECP

21 February, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The lawmakers of various political parties, except MQM, joined hands on Wednesday in the Lower House against, what they say, the crossing of limits by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The environment of the house turned charged as Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed his reservations about 'insulting' language used in a letter sent to him by the ECP on verification of his educational degrees. PPP and PML-Q also jumped into the foray to grill the ECP, with Federal Law Minister Farooq Naek hurling a caution to the commission to remain within its domain.

Nisar later clarified that he didn't mean to criticise the ECP, however a 'civilised' method should have been adopted to seek information from parliamentarians. MQM, which has switched over to the opposition benches after parting ways with the PPP government, took an opposite stance, advising lawmakers not to make a consensus ECP controversial. PML-Q stood along Ch Nisar Ali Khan in taking ECP to the task when Raza Hayat Hiraj and Riaz Fatayna expressed serious reservations over the undue grilling of parliamentarians by the commission. Upon the demands of PML-N and PML-Q, chair agreed to form a committee to hold talks with the ECP over the issue and sought names from all the parliamentary groups in the House.

Nisar, who took the floor right from the beginning of the proceedings, focused only the letter sent to him by the ECP for verification of his educational degrees and strongly objected to the contents of the letter, especially the wording that criminal proceedings would be initiated if the reply was not submitted. "What kind of insulting language has been used against parliamentarians," he pointed out, and said that parliamentarians have been made a joke.

He said it was the parliament which empowered the ECP and now the derogatory language is being used against members of the same parliament. He declared that he would not respond to the letter come what may. Nisar advised the ECP not to take 'dictations' from outsiders like Dr Tahirul Qadri and the PTI. He also opposed the scrutiny period of 30 days for the candidates. "This scrutiny should be ongoing process and action can be taken even after his success if a candidate is found to have committed anything wrong," he said.

Naek fully endorsed Nisar and urged that parliamentarians should not be humiliated. "The issue of verification of degrees at this juncture is simply witch-hunting and nothing else," Naek contended. He said that such steps of the ECP would hit the very prestige of the institution and it would be seen as a conspiracy against the democracy. "Remain in your domain. Don't give such orders," Naek said.

MQM's Farooq Sattar, however, backed the ECP's step of seeking the verification of degrees and urged the fellow members to not blow the issue out of proportion. "If delimitation of constituencies and verification of voter lists exclusively in Karachi can be justified then what is wrong with verification of degrees," Sattar questioned.

Raza Hayat Hiraj of the PML-Q adopted an emotional tone while speaking on ECP. He said only the verification of degrees of foreign institutions would take six weeks.

End.

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