:The Senate on Friday passed the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017, which will pave the way for Nawaz Sharif to again regain chairmanship of Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz (PML-N) and rejected an amendment proposed by the Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) Aitzaz Ahsan.
The PPP had suggested an amendment in clause 203 of the bill, which said that any individual, who is not qualified to become a member of the parliament, should not be eligible to become a party's chairperson either.
In a session chaired by Raza Rabbani, the upper house passed Election Bill 2017 with a majority vote, through which the legal bar on a person to serve as an office-bearer of a political party, if he is either not qualified to be, or disqualified from being elected as a member of the parliament under Article 63 of the Constitution is set to go.
The bill was passed with the help of two opposition parties - the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Balochistan National Party-Mengal - which did not support the opposition during the voting process.
Since the bill, already passed by the National Assembly, has been passed with amendments by the upper house, it will go to National Assembly again and, in all probability, the lower house of parliament will approve it, the Dawn reported.
When Law Minister Zahid Hamid sought consideration of the bill, the PPP opposed it; but the house accorded permission with a majority vote of 41 against 34, marking first defeat of the opposition in the house.
The opposition appeared to be ill-prepared as its members were absent during the important legislative business, and the at times some members from the opposition voted in favour of the treasury and on at least one occasion, the PPP itself was divided during voting.
Section 5(1) of the Political Parties Order, which still holds the field, reads, "Every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan has the right to form or be a member of a political party or be otherwise associated with a political party or take part in political activities or be elected as an office-bearer of a political party."
A proviso to the clause reads, "Provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) under Article 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or under any other law for the time being in force."
Expressing disappointment over the move by Aitzaz Ahsan, the law minister said that the controversial clause providing for such a bar on holding party offices was first introduced in a dictatorial regime through the Political Parties Act, 1965. It was removed in 1975 when a democratic government led by the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in power, he added.
He said the Political Parties Order 2002 brought back the particular provision. He said disqualification was meant to be used against opposition parties. He said the Political Parties Order was considered in a meeting held on Nov 17, 2014 and a member of the PPP suggested the removal of the said clause and the PML-N had accepted it. "There was no mention of Panama Papers, let's throw our principles to the winds," an angry Zahid Hamid said on one occasion.
In the lower house, the Pakistan Tehreeke-e-Insaf's (PTI) had recommended amendments which were rejected.