ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned Railways Minister Azam Swati on October 21 in connection with the minister’s severe criticism of the electoral body, last month, whereby, he had suggested to “set on fire” institutions such as the ECP.
In a letter issued by the ECP, the electoral body has asked the minister to appear before the commission and explain his stance regarding the matter, it is learnt.
Till the filing of this report, Tuesday, the ECP had not summoned Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry against whom the ECP had announced to initiate action, along with Swati, last month.
On September 10, the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs had a tumultuous session with the treasury members having categorically expressed their displeasure with the ECP for repeatedly opposing the federal government’s efforts to launch electronic voting machines (EVMs), which, the government says, aim at bringing transparency in the electoral process.
“This ECP is good for nothing-it always rigged polls-it took bribes for that purpose-such institutions should be set on fire,” Swati said in a hard-hitting diatribe against the ECP.
The minister added, “The ECP is making mockery of government’s efforts to hold free and fair elections. It would not be allowed to undermine democracy.”
The minister even suggested that the ECP should be “disbanded” and the Constitution should be amended to allow the government hold the general polls.
Seemingly embarrassed by the minister’s unexpected verbal offensive, the ECP officials walked out of the committee proceedings.
Later in the day, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry accused the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja of acting as a “mouthpiece for the opposition.”
On September 14, the ECP decided to “seek proof” from Swati regarding his allegations against the ECP.
It also decided to issue notices to Swati and Chaudhry for their public outbursts against the ECP and the CEC respectively.
A source in the ECP told Business Recorder that the ECP decided to initiate proceedings against the two federal ministers in exercise of its powers under Section 10 of Elections Act 2017.
This section grants the ECP the powers of a high court to punish for contempt.
“Power to punish for contempt – The commission may exercise the same power as the high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 – or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly as if reference therein to a court and to a judge were a reference, respectively, to the commission and the commissioner or, as the case may be, a member of the commission,” it reads.
In addition, Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan that deals with contempt of court, reads, “(1) In this Article, ‘court’ means the Supreme Court or a high court.
(2) A court shall have power to punish any person who;
(a) abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the court in any way or disobeys any order of the court;
(b) scandalises the court or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the court or a judge of the court into hatred, ridicule or contempt;
(c) does anything which tends to prejudice the determination of a matter pending before the court; or
(d) does any other thing which, by law, constitutes contempt of the court.
(3) The exercise of the power conferred on a court by this Article may be regulated by law and, subject to law, by rules made by the court.”
Article 63 (1) (g) that deals with the disqualification of parliamentarians, reads, “(1) A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if- (g) he is propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021