15th National Assembly of Pakistan passes 209 bills,

What are the extensive powers prescribed for caretaker prime minister?

Islamabad_A joint session of parliament on Wednesday approved amendments to Election Act 2017, granting additional powers to the caretaker government to take important decisions on the economy and engage with international institutions.

The development came after the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) successfully persuaded its allies in the Centre to approve a bill granting additional powers to the caretaker setup, sources told Geo News.

Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms meeting, held with PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in the chair, where Article 230 — which relates to the functions of a caretaker government — came under discussion.

The sources also said that under the proposed bill, the caretaker government was given “unbridled powers”, which the allied parties, as well as the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), opposed and the legislation was deferred in the joint session a day earlier.

After the discussion today, the PML-N agreed to make minor changes in the bill that would allow the interim government to only engage with bilateral donors and multilateral institutions.

Major changes have been introduced through the Election Act Amendment Bill 2023, granting extensive powers to the caretaker prime minister as Pakistan gets ready for the general elections after transfer of power to the interim setup with the current National Assembly, like the provincial legislatures, completing their tenure next month.

That’s why the government failed to push the bill through the joint sitting of Parliament on Monday as members from both sides of the aisle raised serious objections over the changes suggested in the Election Act 2017.

The proposed changes in Sub-Clause 2 A of Section 230 mean the caretaker prime minister would have more powers in financial and economic affairs, including the authority to make important decisions and sign agreements with the international institutions and foreign governments.

At the same time, the caretaker government has been assigned with more overall powers related to the government affairs in the draft legislation that contains 54 amendments.

An important amendment in the election law says the delimitation process for national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies on the basis of equal number of registered voters, meaning that the door for haphazard size of constituencies has been closed.

The delimitation is to be completed four months before elections and the difference in number of voters between any two constituencies won’t exceed 5 per cent while complaints could be filed within days of announcement of new delimitations by the ECP.

Meanwhile, the bill makes it mandatory for presiding officer to transmit the copy of polling station results to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). In case of internet unavailability, the presiding officer has to share the results in person before 2am to the district returning officer.

If there is any delay then the in-charge of polling station would have to cite reasons, but still with the obligation of finalising and informing the higher authorities about the results before 10am on the day after polling is held.

Moreover, the ECP is bound to address all the complaints [at local, regional or national level] a day before the polling is to be held.

At the same time, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has to provide the record of new computerised national identity cards (CNICs) to the ECP.

The winning candidates in the National Assembly and Senate elections are required to take oath within 60 days; otherwise, the seat would be considered vacant.

As far as the qualification for the technocrat seats in Senate is concerned, the candidates will have to show 20-year experience besides the usual academic qualifications.

Meanwhile, no changes would be allowed in the polling scheme/ stations during the last five days before the polling.

Barring the polling staff from performing duties within their home tehsil and setting the election expenditure limit for the national and provincial assemblies candidates at Rs10 million and Rs4 million are among other important features of the amendment bill.

Earlier,

The 15th National Assembly (NA) of Pakistan has passed 209 bills so far during the last five years.

The 15th NA of Pakistan started on August 13, 2018 and will complete its term on 12 August 2023.

The duration of the first parliamentary year of the current NA was from August 13, 2018 to August 12, 2019, while 10 bills of different nature were approved by the assembly during this period, however, in this parliamentary year, the parliamentarians passed no bill from the Parliament.

The second parliamentary year of the NA continued from 13 August 2019 to 12 August 2020.

During the second parliamentary year, 30 bills were passed by the NA while only one bill was passed by the Parliament.

The duration of the third parliamentary year of the current NA was from 13 August 2020 to 12 August 2021, in which 60 bills of various types were approved by the NA, while eight bills were approved by the Parliament.

The duration of the fourth parliamentary year of the NA was from 13 August 2021 to 12 August 2022, in which a total of 56 bills were passed by the NA and 33 bills were passed by the Majlis Shura (Parliamnet).

Similarly, the fifth parliamentary year of the NA began on August 13, 2022, while it is scheduled to end on August 12, 2023.

According to the statistics released by the NA, during the current parliamentary year, 53 bills have been approved by the NA and 23 bills by the Majlis Shura.

In the 15th NA of Pakistan, 75 ordinances have been enacted at different times under the signature of the President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi.

The president issued seven ordinances during the first parliamentary year (August 13, 2018 to August 12, 2019), 31 ordinances during the second parliamentary year (August 13, 2019 to August 12, 2020), third parliamentary year (August 13, 2020 to August 12, 2021), 16 ordinances during the fourth parliamentary year (August 13, 2021 to August 12, 2022), while only one presidential ordinance was implemented during the fifth parliamentary year (August 13, 2022 to August 12, 2023).

Similarly, 164 bills were passed by the Senate of Pakistan at different times between August 13, 2018 and July 25, 2023.