Parliament joint session: Shahbaz Sharif terms EVMs as ‘evil and vicious’ machines

ISLAMABAD: The joint session of Parliament has started with an agenda to take up more than two dozen crucial bills, including the electoral reforms bill and the bill for the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is presiding over the joint session.

Addressing the House, PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif slammed the ruling party and termed the electronic voting machines (EVMs) as “evil and vicious machines”.

He said that a joint meeting was announced at 10pm, but that meeting was postponed.

“I have received your letter. We have carefully considered your letter and given you the full answer. I commend the opposition members for not coming under government pressure,” he told the Speaker.

Shehbaz said that the government and its allies want to bulldoze the bills and said the government was not being sincere in creating consensus on electoral reforms.

Opposing the EVM bill, Shahbaz Sharif warned the speaker, “You will be responsible if you allowed the black law to be passed.” He feared the law could cause great loss to the country.

The PML-N leader said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) found the bill against the constitution and had rejected it.

Criticising the PTI lead government, Shahbaz Sharifs said that the meanings of three words have changed after the party came into power in the country.

The name of revenge has become accountability, distraction has been named as ‘change’ and rigging as EVMs, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, the PML-N leader said that they were not against the right of vote to overseas Pakistani but they have concerns over the procedure.

He further said that the government wanted to fulfill its fascist agenda in the garb of the right of vote to the expat Pakistanis. Shehbaz said that the PTI wanted to win the next elections without going to the people.

‘Respect your own position’: Bilawal tells Asad Qaiser

Addressing Speaker Asad Qaiser, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto started his speech by requesting him to “respect his own chair”, “respect his own position” and “respect the House”.

He reminded the speaker that he is the custodian of the National Assembly of Pakistan and had agreed in writing with the Opposition that whatever legislation is brought in will be done with consensus.

He said that a united Opposition was standing before the House today.

“If we were all legislating together, the next election would have been transparent,” Bilawal said.

EVM bill deferred

Earlier, as soon as National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser handed over the microphone to Parliamentary Affairs Adviser Babar Awan, the Opposition started making noise.

Awan requested the speaker to postpone the bill for electronic voting machines. saying the Opposition wanted to talk to him [the Speaker] over this bill, so it should be delayed.

The speaker deferred the bill for electronic voting machines.

Awan said that the Opposition has objections to Agenda No 2 of the Election Amendment Bill 2021. “The bill has been discussed with you [Speaker] and also in the Senate. The bill should be deferred for further discussion,” Awan said.

‘Govt has complete trust in allies’

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says the government has “complete trust” in its allies.

“We trust them because the people of their constituencies have given them the mandate,” he said.

He said that the government wanted fair and transparent polls which would strengthen democracy in the country.

The PTI leader said today is the “historic day”.

When a player enters the field he is ready to face any challenge: PM Imran

Ahead of today’s crucial joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that every player on the ground said whatever opponent can do, he can do better.

Talking to journalists in the Parliament Hoarse, PM Imran said that when a player walks on the ground, he is ready for everything.

Refereeing to the prime minister’s marathon huddles before the joint session, when a journalist asked a question about the reason behind the meetings, PM Imran replied,” Who is holding meetings?”

Govt, opposition  ready to flex  muscles  

Both the government and joint Opposition are ready to flex their muscles in today’s joint session of Parliament convened as the ruling party appears confident over the passage of all its bills after getting the support of its allies.

The government eyes passing more than two dozen bills with the help of its allied parties, while the opposition parties have vowed to foil the treasury’s attempt to get the “black laws” passed at all costs.

The bills to be taken up for passage were referred to the joint sitting by the National Assembly after they were not okayed within the stipulated 90 days.

Members of the National Assembly have started arriving for the joint sitting of Parliament. Prime Minister Imran Khan, Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have reached Parliament House, while other members are also arriving.

Upon arrival at the Parliament House, journalists asked Shehbaz Sharif whether he would give a tough time to the government or defeat it. Shehbaz responded that the Opposition has its numbers figured out. “The opposition will give its answer in the joint meeting,” he said.

Party position

The PTI-led government needs a simple majority in the joint sitting of houses currently having a total strength of 440 members (341 MNAs and 99 Senators) to get the bills passed.

As per data, the government currently enjoys the support of a minimum of 221 parliamentarians, including 179 MNAs and 42 senators.

The treasury benches enjoy an edge of at least two votes over the opposition parties jointly. The opposition parties are supported by 219 parliamentarians, including 162 MNAs and 57 senators.

There are four independent MNAs including Mohsin Dawar, Ali Wazir, and Ali Nawaz Shah, who support the opposition while Aslam Bhotani sits on treasury benches.

The MQM-P having seven MNAs and one senator on Tuesday announced to support the government in the passage of all the bills at the joint sitting after its reservations were addressed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the cabinet members at different sittings.

Meanwhile, in this crucial situation, despite the government’s claims, the PML-Q was yet to officially announce its support to the controversial legislation. Only a day before, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi chaired a meeting of the PML-Q during which the party leaders expressed concerns over inflation, increasing prices of petroleum products and tariffs of electricity and gas.

“We cannot face our voters in this situation,” they said. The PMLQ in the Parliament is represented by five members of the National Assembly and one Senator.

Opposition prepares joint strategy

In response, the joint opposition is determined to resist the government in today’s sitting and stop it from legislating on “black laws”.

The resolve was expressed during a meeting of the joint opposition on Tuesday, with the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif in the chair.

In the meeting, it was decided that all party heads would ensure their lawmakers’ attendance during the session, as the numbers to block the legislation would matter.

Shehbaz, sharing his thoughts during the meeting, had said: “The government has pushed the country towards an economic decline and the masses are burdened with inflation.”

The opposition leader had said the government could not save itself through its “black laws” as it is “no better than a crumbling wall”.

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