Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during the National Assembly session.

The National Assembly on Thursday passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which removes the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and disallows overseas Pakistanis from voting in the next general election. 

Instead, the bill aims to conduct pilot projects in local by-elections before using the I-Voting and EVMs in the next general elections.

The National Assembly session began with Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf in the chair during which the election reforms bill was tabled by the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendment was aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

“Overseas Pakistanis are an asset and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote,” he stressed.

Regarding the use of EVMs, the law minister said that the parliament was not against the use of technology, but had concerns about its misuse as the Result Transmission System (RTS) had failed during the last general elections “to favour a particular political party”.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had also expressed its inability to hold elections through I-Voting and EVMs in a short span of time and without proper homework. It had raised its concerns about the amendments made during PTI’s government as the stakeholders were not taken into confidence.”

The minister further added that “two amendments are being brought to revive the Elections Act 2017, enabling the ECP to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections”.

The law minister further added that under the amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of the new voting process and shall share the results with the government.

“Under Amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for utilisation of EVMs and biometric verification system in the by-elections,” he added.

The law minister further said that a parliamentary committee had been formed for electoral reforms in which all political parties are represented.

Following the remarks, the bill was passed clause by clause and the amendments of the previous government regarding overseas voting including electronic voting machines were deleted.

NAB amendment bill tabled

Speaking on the NAB amendment bill, Tarar said that former prime minister Imran Khan did not want legislation in the parliament as he was running state affairs through presidential ordinances.

“After that, some other amendments were made which abused the civil servants,” he said. “Civil servants were imprisoned without any evidence. The NAB laws were used to change the voice of politicians. Even the judges said NAB was used to wall-off politicians.”

“We have suffered through this law but we do not want anyone else to suffer. This law gave NAB powers of 90-day remand which is non-bailable. Such remand is for terrorists and criminals who can be brainwashed. We are trying to make better amendments and improve the system,” he said.

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmed said the assembly should complete its term and elections should be held on time.

Responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s remarks, he assured that the opposition will play its positive and constructive role in running affairs of the House.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking on the floor of the House, congratulated Raja Riaz on becoming leader of the opposition.

He assured him that he had the allied government’s full cooperation in running the business of the parliament in an amicable manner.

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