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MNAs blast ‘rude’ ECP seeking degrees verification
Source: The Nation | 21-02-2013

The government and opposition national assembly members Wednesday joined hands to condemn the Election Commission saying that the electoral body should ‘not cross limits’ while addressing the parliamentarians to seek any information.

The matter of sending letters to legislators to verify their degrees by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) dominated the House proceedings and legislators from both side of the aisle, except for the MQM members, were unanimous that the commission should adopt ‘civilised’ way while addressing the parliamentarians.

Latter the assembly passed a longstanding piece of legislation ‘Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013’, which envisages the strengthening of provisions concerning the offences of terrorism financing and provision of more effective enforcement measures against such offences.

Earlier, the objections of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan about using ‘insulting’ language in an ECP letter to parliamentarians for the verification of their educational degrees was endorsed by the lawmakers of PML-Q and PPP. “I refuse to entertain this kind of letter... Let them do further action,” he declared it twice, adding that he would send a letter to ECP chief on this issue.

Quoting the words of the letter, “if reply was not submitted, criminal proceeding would be initiated”, Nisar said though it was mandate of ECP to solicit information but a civilised way should be adopted while writing to the parliamentarians. “We have been made a joke, with the media spreading baseless stories and flashing contemptuous headlines... This was the parliament which empowered the ECP and now the derogatory language is being used against parliamentarians,” he said, adding that there are some bad elements in all institutions but all should not be treated in the same manner.

The ruling PPP went a step further by cautioning the ECP to remain within its domain. On that, Nisar, who took the floor twice, rushed to clarify he was not in favour of putting any hurdle in the ECP work but a civilised way should be adopted to seek information. He also proposed a parliamentary committee be constituted to negotiate with the Election Commission on the issue of verification of the degrees.
Opposing the scrutiny period of 30 days of the candidates, PML-N leader further asked ECP to avoid taking the dictations from outsiders like Dr Qadri and PTI. He added that this scrutiny should be ongoing process as action can be taken even after the success of candidate over wrongdoing. He also floated a proposal that ECP should write a letter to the educational institutions concerned for the verification of the certificates and degrees and parliamentarian should not be engaged in this matter.

Endorsing the objections of Ch Nisar, Law Minister Farooq H Naek cautioned the ECP to remain within its domain. “Now there is no condition of BA degree and at this juncture of time, it is simply witch-hunting and nothing else,” he added. Giving the reference of Article 218, he said writing that letter to parliamentarian was beyond the ECP power. “Don't' give such orders and remain in your domain,” Naek said.

Taking the floor, MQM legislator Dr Farooq Sattar said that there was no harm in verification of educational degrees at all. “It should not be made matter of ego. Let the ECP perform its duty,” he maintained. Farooq said if delimitation of constituencies and verification of voter lists in Karachi can be justified, what was wrong with verification of degrees.

Taking the floor, PML-Q legislator Raza Hayat Hiraj endorsed the Ch Nisar for quizzing the parliamentarians in a ‘humiliating’ way. He said a House committee should be formed which negotiate with ECP on this matter. Terming it a long process, he said only the verification of degrees of foreign institutions would take six weeks. PML-N Anusha Rahman lashed out at media for ‘maligning’ the parliamentarians through baseless reports. Upon all that, the chair agreed to form a house committee to hold talks with ECP and sought names for it from all the parliamentary groups in the house.

Later, the house unanimously passed Anti-Terrorism Bill 2013 aimed at curbing terror financing by removing legislative lacunae highlighted by an international body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This bill would pave the way for the law enforcement agencies to take action against those who finance acts of terrorism and those who benefit from the proceeds of such acts.

Law Minister Farooq H Naek presented the bill in the house, which says the federal government or a provincial government may designate an officer to freeze, seize or detain any money or other property for a period of fifteen days, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is a terrorist property.

The refusal to effect freeze or seizure under this section without just cause shall be an offence under the bill and shall be liable to conviction to imprisonment of upto five years or fine upto Rs500, 000 or both," said another clause. However, it added that no prosecution, suit or other proceedings shall lie against the government or the officer concerned for anything done or intended to be done in good faith to effect the seizure.

In new definitions provision, the law substituted the words of 'proscribed organizations' with 'an organization concerned in terrorism or a terrorist'. It defined 'money' as including 'coins or notes or any currency, postal orders, money orders, bank credits, bank accounts, letter of credit, traveler cheques, bankers drafts in any form, electronic, digital or otherwise and such other kinds of monetary instruments or documents as the federal government may by order specify.' 


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