In Pakistan, the dispute between the government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seems to be growing. Following the statements of government ministers, the Election Commission has decided to issue notices to Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry and Railway Minister Azam Swati.
The Election Commission has decided to seek evidence from Railway Minister Azam Swati on the allegation of taking money from the Election Commission, while it has also sought records from PEMRA.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry says that whatever he says is a statement of the cabinet. According to him, the Election Commission is a tool of the opposition and has close ties with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This is the idea of the cabinet.
Prove Azam Swati’s allegations: ECP
According to a statement issued by the Election Commission, the meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja discussed the allegations leveled against the Election Commission and the Chief Election Commissioner.
The statement said that the Election Commission has denied the allegations.
The meeting was also briefed on the developments in the Presidency and Standing Committee meetings. According to the statement, the Election Commission has decided to seek evidence on the allegations leveled against the ECP by Railway Minister Azam Swati.
According to the SCP, during a press briefing by Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry, it was decided to issue notices to him and Azam Swati on the allegations leveled against the Election Commission and the Chief Election Commissioner. So that further action can be taken.
According to the statement, the Election Commission has also sought a record of statements made by the Federal Minister from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Development Authority (PEMRA). Based on which further action will be decided.
What did the federal ministers say?
Disputes between the Election Commission and the PTI government are not new. The two have used harsh language against each other in the past, but a series of recent statements began on September 10 when Railway Minister Azam Swati addressed a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs on the issue of electronic voting machines. However, in the presence of the commission officials, he alleged that the Election Commission was “holding the money”. The Election Commission is the cause of destroying the democracy of the country. You go to hell, set fire to such institutions.
Following these allegations, members of the Election Commission walked out of the meeting and later the government also boycotted the meeting due to Chairman Taj Haider’s refusal to take a member to the meeting online. Rejected legislation.
After the meeting, Fawad Chaudhry held a news conference with Azam Swati. In which he said, “It seems that the Election Commission has become the headquarters of the opposition. He told the Chief Election Commissioner directly that if he has to do politics, he should resign and contest the elections. The Chief Election Commissioner has become the mouthpiece of the opposition. He has been in close touch with Nawaz Sharif.
One of the reasons for the government’s tough stance on the Election Commission is the Electronic Voting Mission (EVM), which the Election Commission has objected to.
Even before the September 10 meeting, the Election Commission had sent its objections and reservations in a letter to the chairman of the standing committee, saying that the use of EVMs in the next election was not possible. There is a strong reaction from the government.
Azam Swati used harsh language in the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs and the Presidency and on one occasion even said that “the Election Commission should be set on fire”.
The ministers are calling the ECP the center of the opposition, but Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, speaking on Pakistan’s private television channel ARY News, said that the ECP should address issues at the institutional level. He should have taken them to the media, which made things worse.
Fawad Chaudhry said that instead of sending objections on EVM to the government, a press release was issued to the media. Similarly, before going to the standing committee, a list of 37 objections was released to the media instead of the government. If you have to compete, your words will be answered in the media.
He said that the legal status of the notice issued to him has to be taken into consideration as the quorum of the Election Commission is not yet complete, two members are to be appointed and the meeting held in the absence of two members and the issuance of notices are legal. Status must be checked.
According to him, it would have been better if this press release had not been issued. He said that at present the Election Commission is a tool of the opposition and it has ties with Nawaz Sharif. The commission should not do politics and all these are the views of the cabinet. If they want to save themselves from politics, they have to correct their conduct.
Fawad Chaudhry said that when statements are made on social media sites, there will be a reaction.
He said that the allegations leveled against the Election Commission were based on the fact that political statements were issued by the commission continuously and if this was done, there would be a political backlash.
How can the Chief Election Commissioner be removed?
The government has options to remove Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.
The constitutional way to remove the Chief Election Commissioner is to file a reference against him in the Supreme Court. This reference is forwarded by the President of Pakistan to the Supreme Judicial Council at the direction of the Government, where the members of the Council can make a decision after reviewing the allegations leveled against the Chief Election Commissioner.
The second case is for him to resign and in the current situation he does not seem to be resigning at all but is responding to every move of the government by taking strict action.
Sikandar Sultan Raja is a senior bureaucrat and has previously served as Director General Passport and Immigration, Chief Secretary of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, Secretary Petroleum and Secretary Railways.
In January 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed him Chief Election Commissioner. But due to some decisions taken in EVM and by-elections, the government is angry with him and is demanding his resignation.
What can happen to ministers with contempt of court notice?
In addition, according to the powers enshrined in the Constitution, the powers of the Chief Election Commissioner are equal to those of a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. And contempt of court proceedings can be instituted by summoning ministers who speak out against them for making false allegations and making them controversial.
Former Secretary Election Commission Kanwar Dilshad has said that if he fails to provide evidence of his allegations in response to these notices and is found guilty of contempt of court, he can be disqualified for up to five years.
He said that the powers of the Chief Election Commissioner have been given in the constitution and he has the power of contempt of court against the institution or the persons accusing him. Now the Election Commission has started proceedings in this matter and after the record comes, formal action may be taken in this regard.