ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution urging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take measures for holding general elections across the country within the stipulated time given under Article 224 of the Constitution (time of election and by-election).

Presented by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, the resolution also asked all the state institutions to assist, in every possible manner, the ECP in holding polls.

The resolution comes as the government gears up to dissolve the National Assembly (NA) today, three days ahead of its mandated period, following which elections are supposed to be held within 90 days.

However, ministers have recently stated that there was a possibility of a delay in holding the next general elections due to constitutional requirements. Earlier this week, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said 2023 was not an election year while Defence Minister Khawaja Asif stated polls were “due in November”.

The resolution passed in the Senate today highlighted that the top court had ruled that holding elections under Article 224 of the Constitution — after the National Assembly completed its term or was dissolved — was a “divine” responsibility which could not be disobeyed.

It stated that a person or institution only had the jurisdiction given to them under the law or Constitution and a caretaker government was only appointed to hold elections and take decisions pertaining to day-to-day affairs.

“Therefore, this House demands the ECP to ensure holding polls within the stipulated period of time given under Article 224 of the Constitution and take all necessary measures in this regard.

“The House also demands state institutions to provide all the possible assistance to the ECP for conducting elections on time, fulfilling its constitutional responsibility,” the resolution added.

Pemra amendment bill sails through Senate

During Wednesday’s session, the Senate also passed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Amend­ment) Bill, 2023.

The bill aimed at streamlining the procedures to register and monitor ratings of TV channels as well as elaborating on the definitions of disinformation and misinformation.

When presented in Senate, the bill faced fierce opposition after which it was sent to the relevant standing committee for discussion. A day earlier, the government had announced the withdrawal of the bill following objections raised by certain stakeholders regarding specific provisions in the proposed legislation.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), as well as journalists’ bodies, had expressed concerns that the law could be misused and “may allow powerful groups or individuals to stonewall journalists seeking both sides of a story”.

Additionally, broadcasters had expressed concern over the government move and said that the powers to monitor the rating agencies should be given to advertisers.

However, during the Senate session today, Informational Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb — who tabled the bill once again — stated that one of the amendments to the law included giving the power of selecting the Pemra chairman to the Parliament.

“The second amendment … we got a suggestion that word ‘salaries’ could create confusion and should be replaced with ‘dues’,” she told the House, adding that further amendments included changes to the definitions of misinformation and disinformation.

Aurangzeb decried that the bill was criticised as a “black law” by certain segments of the society and a campaign was run against her.

“Without reading the bill, it was made controversial deliberately. But then all working journalists gave awareness on the amendments to the law for three days … I pay tribute to these workers and today I want to say that this bill if it is passed today, would belong to these workers,” she added.

Subsequently, the Pemra amendments bill was passed by the Senate after which it was also cleared by the NA.

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