Ordinances raise many an eyebrow when no elections are in sight

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 01:21 PM, 5 May, 2021
Ordinances raise many an eyebrow when no elections are in sight
File photo.

The federal cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday, inter alia, approved two ordinances: one to enable the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections and the other to empower it to take steps to give the voting right to overseas Pakistanis by introducing modern technology. 

Under Article 89 of the Constitution, an ordinance is promulgated by the president to deal with an emergency situation if the Senate or National Assembly is not in session and the president is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action. It is valid for 120 days unless extended by parliament through a laid-down procedure. 

The question is what’s the emergency situation the two ordinances will address?  

As of now no elections are being held in the country which will need the use of EVMs. 

Likewise, when no election is being held what purpose will be served by the Election Commission of Pakistan taking necessary steps to give millions of overseas Pakistan voting right? 

Both these issues are controversial and there is little chance of any agreement between the government and the opposition parties to reach consensus. 

The government had offered the opposition talks on EVMs but the latter rejected the idea, saying these machines would not make the electoral process transparent. They also pointed out that these machines had been rejected by some developed countries.

See Also: ECP orders recount of NA-249 by-election votes on May 6

When there is no possibility of any agreement between the government and the opposition on the utility of the EVMs, what is it that made it necessary for the federal cabinet to approve an ordinance for it?

Similarly, it is also incomprehensible what emergency steps can the Election Commission of Pakistan take to give voting right to the overseas Pakistanis

Why the government did not show the required efficiency in getting necessary legislation approved from the bicameral parliament?   

Had the government convinced the opposition parties about the utility of these measures they can be adopted by parliament within no time.    

Without any apparent need for the either the introduction of EVMs or voting rights to the overseas Pakistan the cabinet has given the opposition parties important points to hammer the government with. Now these ordinances will remain the subject of talk shows in the coming days. 

And unless the government and the opposition parties evolve some mechanism through consultations, the future elections will also remain as controversial as held in the past. 

It may be pointed out that under Article 89 of the Constitution the president has the power to promulgate ordinances. The President may, except when the [Senate or] National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an Ordinance as the circumstances may require.

An Ordinance promulgated under this Article shall have the same force and effect as an Act of 2 [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).

Every ordinance has to be laid before the National Assembly if it contains provisions dealing with all or any of the matters specified in clause (2) of Article 73], and shall stand repealed at the expiration of [one hundred and twenty days] from its promulgation or, if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by the Assembly, upon the passing of that resolution:

[Provided that the National Assembly may by a resolution extend the Ordinance for a further period of one hundred and twenty days and it shall stand repealed at the expiration of the extended period, or if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by the Assembly, upon the passing of that resolution: Provided further that extension for further period may be made only once.]

(ii)  before both Houses if it [does not contain provisions dealing with any of the matters referred to in sub-paragraph (i)], and shall  stand repealed at the expiration of 6[one hundred and twenty days] from its promulgation or, if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by either House, upon the passing of that resolution:

[Provided that either House may by a resolution extend it for a further period of one hundred and twenty days and it shall stand repealed at the expiration of the extended period, or if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by a House, upon the passing of that resolution.