ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously amended the Election Act 2017 to restore clauses related to Khatm-e-Nabuwwat in the nomination papers in the original form.
Lawmakers belonging to both the treasury and opposition benches demanded an investigation to fix responsibility of controversial changes which were made in the nomination papers.
The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2017, moved by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, sought to revive the Articles 7B and 7C of the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002 and change the wording of the Form A of the Election Act.
The minister said the declaration contained in the nomination papers had been restored in its original form through the amendment to the Act. He clarified that nobody could think of impacting in any manner the provision regarding the finality of the prophethood.
He said the amendment to the Election Act had also restored Articles 7B and 7C regarding the status of Ahmadis.
After realising the sensitivity of the issue, the government on Wednesday had announced its intention to rectify the change in a clause of the Election Bill 2017 regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of the prophethood) in the declaration form for public office-holders.
After the amendment was adopted, former prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz strongly criticised the law minister, saying he was responsible for the misgiving as either he had not read the bill or had been asked by someone else to do so (omission of the word oath in the nomination form). Jamali said that after the controversy surfaced, he had told Hamid that he didn’t expect such a thing from him. He said the minister had told him that a parliamentary committee had made the draft.
“Whoever did it should accept the responsibility,” Jamali said, demanding punishment for the person who had altered the nomination form.
The former prime minister said his health might not allow him to visit the National Assembly again and he had come because of the issue of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, which surfaced after the passage of the Election Act. He bitterly recalled the scenario of the Fall of Dhaka and urged the government not to indulge in a confrontation with state institutions. “These Institutions belong to the government of Pakistan and they would not come under personal subordination. There are people who are talking about Afghania… ,” he said. Speaker Ayaz Sadiq expunged the concluding remarks of Jamali’s speech, pertaining to assemblies.
Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party said it was wrong to place the responsibility of the episode on the committee. He said a needless controversy had come to an end.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said it was a regrettable ‘mistake’ which generated restlessness across the country. He said Khatm-e-Nabuwwat was a serious issue and he wondered why the controversy had been caused.
He said no minister was ready to take the responsibility and an investigation should be carried out.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Shaikh Salahuddin also raised the question as to why controversial changes were made in the election law and to please whom.
In a rare happening, Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada and some other lawmakers from the treasury benches staged a walkout from the House after expressing concern about an alleged list of 37 lawmakers prepared by the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The minister said it had been maintained in the alleged list that the parliamentarians had links with banned groups.
In the alleged memorandum of the IB, dated July 13, it was maintained that on the directives of the prime minister intelligence might be gathered about the 37 senators, MNAs and MPAs because of their dealings with the banned outfits. The names of Pirzada, NA Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi and others mostly belonging to the ruling party were mentioned.
An emotionally charged Pirzada asked why he had been made a minister if he had connections with banned groups. He raised the question whether foreign embassies would grant visas to those on the alleged list.
Some other MNAs whose names were mentioned in the purported list joined the walkout to register their protest.
Responding to the concerns of Riaz Pirzada about media reports allegedly linking certain parliamentarians with banned groups, the law minister said the Cabinet had taken a strong notice of the matter and asked him to ensure legal action. He said he had contacted the IB director general who had described the report as false and forged.
Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said the IB chief had also lodged a complaint with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority about the fabricated report. She said the findings of Pemra on the matter would be brought before the House and made public.