Senate may discuss ‘rigging’ in elections

ISLAMABAD: Amidst a fresh debate on the issue of alleged failure of the Results Transmission System (RTS) during the July 25 general elections, the Senate is set to hold a full-fledged discussion on the issue of “poll rigging” when it will go into the session on Monday (today) after a two-day recess.

A discussion on the admitted adjournment motion moved by Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Senator Javed Abbasi “regarding the issue of rigging in general elections 2018” is part of the 24-point agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat for Monday’s private member’s day.

Last week, the Senate chairman had to adjourn the proceedings twice due to lack of quorum after the opposition members’ walkout when they were not allowed to speak on the RTS fiasco.

Through a calling attention notice, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Senator Azam Swati had drawn the attention of the house to the alleged failure of the RTS in the elections, and the performance of the Election Commission of Pakistan following the fiasco. He had said that the ECP and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) were blaming each other for the system’s failure.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Raza Rabbani had alleged that Mr Swati was only presenting his side of the story and that he should have moved an adjournment motion as the whole house wanted a debate on the matter.

The issue is part of 24-point agenda for today’s session

Mr Rabbani said the opposition had already demanded that a parliamentary commission be formed to probe the allegations of rigging in the elections.

Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala, however, pointed out that rules allowed Mr Swati to speak on his calling attention notice for 10 minutes. This prompted the opposition members to stage the walkout and point out lack of quorum.

On Friday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Senator Azam Swati held a news conference and stated that the federal government had decided to launch an inquiry into alleged manipulation in election results as they believed that top officials of Nadra were involved in “twisting the system”.

The two PTI leaders claimed that there was no rigging in the elections, but “the flow of the results was deliberately delayed by Nadra”.

Within an hour, Nadra came up with its reaction to the allegations, saying the notion presented at the press conference was incorrect and insisting that it’s RTS system had not failed. It said there was no link between its RTS and the Results Management System of the ECP, adding that the authority was ready for any forensic audit.

The PPP has already called for carrying out forensic audit of all Forms 45 uploaded by the ECP on its official website. The party also calls for setting up a parliamentary committee to hold investigations into the “failure” of the RTS that had been developed by Nadra for direct transmission of results from polling stations, thus eliminating the role of returning officers from the results consolidation and minimising the chances of manipulation.

Besides debate on alleged rigging in the elections, the Senate is also expected to have discussions on the issues of rising trade deficit, overall performance of Ministry of Religious Affairs with particular reference to arrangements for Haj, construction of small dams and water reservoirs and the tax amnesty scheme announced by the last government.

The Senate may also discuss violations of human rights in India-held Kashmir by Indian security forces as reported by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in its report on “the status of human rights in the valley of Kashmir”.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018

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