NA passes 20th Amendment Bill

ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly in a late night session on Tuesday unanimously adopted the 20th Amendment in the constitution that provided for an independent Election Commission and a neutral interim government to oversee polls.

By Afzal Khan

Published: Fri 17 Feb 2012, 12:14 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:50 AM

Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio tabled the amendment bill after the government and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) reached an accord on various modifications proposed by the latter. A total of 247 members voted for the bill and none against.

The amendment ensures formation of a caretaker set-up with consensus. It also strengthens the Election Commission by enhancing tenure of members from three to five years.

The amendment validates the election of 28 lawmakers through by-elections during the past two years whose membership was suspended by the Supreme Court because the polls on vacant seats were held without completing the Election Commission in accordance with the 18th Amendment approved in April 2010.

Speaking after the vote, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said an unbiased caretaker set-up will be formed through the 20th amendment which will not represent any political party and will make free and fair elections possible in the country. The embattled prime minister who is facing disqualification on charge of contempt of court, said that autocratic forces do not want political stability in the country and vowed to face them with courage. “Petroleum prices will be lowered,” he added.

Gilani said that the federal cabinet has approved the bill unanimously after prolonged consultations with the opposition.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Cahudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the constitutional amendment was a national issue designed to guarantee free, fair and non-controversial elections. In an apparent reference to Imran Khan’s party, Nisar regretted that some non-democratic forces and political parties were trying to make it look like a deal between the PPP and the PML-N. “All details must be publicised … to remove any confusion,” he added.

The amendment provides meaningful consultation between the leader of the house and the opposition for setting up caretaker government. In a case of disagreement, an eight-member bipartisan parliamentary committee will decide the matter failing which the Election Commission would take final decision.

The bill now goes to the Senate before final assent by the president.

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