‘Constitutional Luxury’ Enjoyed By Politicians Likely To End Before General Elections

‘Constitutional Luxury’ Enjoyed By Politicians Likely To End Before General Elections
With general elections likely to be scheduled by the end of this year, a parliamentary committee has approved a novel bill that seeks to clip the wings of heavyweight politicians, party heads and contestants.

The new law will limit politicians to contest on no more than two constituencies simultaneously.

Assembly aspirants, mainly party heads and senior politicians in Pakistan, prefer to contest on multiple seats as a fail-safe against losing their chance to get elected to the parliament.

Now, a bill has been moved in the National Assembly that will constitutionally disallow politicians from enjoy this ‘relaxation’.

MNA Maulana Akbar Chitrali, the lone member of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the National Assembly (NA), has moved the bill in NA's Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

The bill was approved by the parliamentary committee, which was chaired by Mahmood Bashir Virk of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). It will now be presented on the floor of the house [National Assembly] for further deliberation and voting.

Talking to The Friday Times, MNA Maulana Akbar Chitrali remarked that this relaxation-cum-"political luxury" should now be stopped.

“This is mere a wastage of public money,” he said, arguing that heavyweight politicians contest on more than two seats in every election. Chitrali was confident that he would get the support of his fellow lawmakers to secure the bill's passage from the national assembly.

Journey of the bill

The bill had been introduced in the National Assembly by Chitrali last year.

In its original form, it sought a ban on a candidate if he or she contests elections on more than two seats simultaneously. The bill sought to amend Article 223 of the Constitution, which allows any person to contest election on multiple seats.

“Anything contained in clause (1) shall not prevent any person from being a candidate for maximum two seats either in one assembly or two assemblies at the same time,” read the amendment proposed by JI’s MNA.

The proposed amendment suggests that in case a candidate wins both seats, the candidate will have to vacate one seat within 30 days.

Referring to a report prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the JI lawmaker argued that the poll body had spent no less than Rs20.7 million to hold elections in one constituency. To hold by-polls simply because the seat had been given up by its victor in favour of another seat would mean incurring a similar costs all over again.

The issue of being able to contest on an unlimited number of seats came to the fore last year when former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan fully utilized this luxury last year. Initially his party planned to field candidates to contest on 33 vacant parliamentary seats in the by-polls. However, he later changed his mind and contested on all these seats.

Imran had made history by managing to bag the most number of National Assembly seats [seven seats] in a by-elections.Previously, PPP founder and former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had also contested on five seats and bagged four seats.