Cabinet approves govt’s request to move ECP for early Senate polls | Pakistan Today

Cabinet approves govt’s request to move ECP for early Senate polls

–Cabinet to file reference in SC for Senate elections

–Ministers point fingers on officials for failing to handle petroleum shortage

ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the upcoming long march schedule of the opposition alliance, the federal government has decided to approach the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with a request to hold Senate elections in February instead of March next year.

Furthermore, the federal cabinet also decided to move the Supreme Court (SC) to seek permission to adopt the show of hands procedure for the Senate elections.

The meeting of the federal cabinet was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, wherein the set agenda, the political, economic conditions and coronavirus pandemic situation was reviewed.

Reportedly, the federal cabinet discussed the upcoming long march by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and decided to hold Senate polls in February next year instead of following the March schedule.

The federal government had received reports that the PDM was concerned that if Senate elections are held on time, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies would secure a two-thirds majority and it subsequently would overtake lawmaking for the foreseeable future.

Purportedly, In order to prevent any destabilisation of the democratic process, the cabinet members have decided to seek ECP’s approval to hold the elections in February.

The cabinet also decided to approach the apex court to seek its guidance on the possibility of holding the Senate elections through a show of hands rather than secret ballot.

For this purpose, the government will file a reference in the SC. According to the decision of the federal cabinet, a reference will be filed in the SC under Article 186, seeking the opinion of the top court under the Constitution, in which case the government will be able to hold elections without amendment in the light of the decision of the apex court.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan gave a briefing to the cabinet on constitutional and political aspects in the meeting, while Attorney General (AG) Khalid Javed Khan presented proposals in the cabinet.

The federal cabinet was also presented with a detailed investigation report on the petroleum prices scandal. Therein, Prime Minister Imran Khan hinted at action against companies involved in the petrol crisis.

The PM said that strict action would be taken against those involved in the petrol crisis. He also formed a four-member committee to take action on the inquiry report of the petroleum crisis.

The committee comprising federal ministers Shafqat Mahmood, Shireen Mazari, Azam Swati and Asad Umar. The committee will make recommendations for action on the inquiry report within a week’s time.

Some federal ministers reportedly reacted strongly to the inquiry report and raised concerns about the relevant purview of the concerned ministries on the petrol crisis.

Murad Saeed, Faisal Vawda and Ali Zaidi raised serious questions over the incompetence of Advisor to PM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar. Petroleum Advisor Nadeem Babar continued to explain the report during the cabinet meeting.

Murad also asked what responsibilities did the ministries carry out after the crisis. Federal Minister Faisal Wawda asked why the licenses of the companies involved were not revoked.

Special Assistant to PM (SAPM) for Social Security and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the cabinet on the details of payments made under Ehsaas Kiflat Programme, Ehsas National Socio-Economic Survey and Prime Minister’s Covid Relief Fund.

The cabinet was also informed that there were many errors and ambiguities in the old Social Security and Poverty Reduction Survey due to which payments were made to undeserving persons.  The SAPM said that the Ehsaas Programme will provide financial assistance to 7 million people, of which 2.3 million people have been disbursed so far.

The cabinet was further informed that 31,543 unqualified persons have been removed from the database.

The premier was told that Rs1.081 billion was received in the fund from international donors while Rs3.805 billion was given by local donors.  At that time, Rs4.886 billion was deposited in this fund.

As per the instructions of PM Imran, the federal government has increased this amount to Rs24.43 billion.

The cabinet was informed that the payments from this fund are being made in a completely transparent manner. So far, 2 million people have been provided emergency cash from this fund.

The cabinet approved the appointment of Asim Shehryar Hussain as the chief executive officer of National Technology Fund on a three-year contract. The cabinet also approved the appointment of Imran Manyar and of Ali Javed Hamdani as the managing directors of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) on a three-year contract.

The cabinet approved the appointment of members on the Board of Directors (BoD) of the Public-Private Partnership Authority.

The meeting approved the appointment of Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz as chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and approved the reorganization of the Board of Trustees of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]