ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi will address the joint session of the Parliament today (Monday) as Opposition members and journalists gear up to protest ahead of his speech.
The president has summoned both houses of the Parliament to assemble together in the Parliament House, read a government notification, adding that the decision had been taken by the president in the exercise of his powers under Article 56(3) of the Constitution.
The president will address the joint sitting at the advent of the fourth parliamentary year of the incumbent government.
As per reports, Opposition parties have already planned to disrupt the president’s speech before staging a walk-out and holding demonstrations outside the Parliament House.
Journalists, members of the civil society and other organisations are staging a sit-in protest outside the Parliament against the establishment of the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).
Sources told The News that heads of various Opposition parties will hold a meeting before the joint session commences. The meeting, which will be chaired by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, will prepare a strategy for the joint sitting’s proceedings.
Opposition, govt trade barbs over ECP issue
Opposition parties have lashed out at the government in recent days over what they say are open threats issued by ministers to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The ECP and the government have openly disagreed on the issue of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with the former, not in favour of contesting general elections through it while the latter insists on it.
Of the concerns noted, the ECP wrote to the government a few days ago that there was not enough time for a “large scale implementation of EVMs in the upcoming election.”
Other challenges identified by the ECP include the issue of lack of secrecy of the ballot, lack of large scale pilot testing and the machines not being financially viable.
The Commission further wrote that the EVMs cannot “prevent rigging like booth capturing”, adding that they were hackable and tamper prone. The software, it highlighted, can also easily be altered.
“It is nearly impossible to ensure that every machine is honest,” the ECP noted. The EVMs cannot prevent low voter turnout, low women voter turnout, vote buying, misuse of state authorities and dishonest voting staff, amongst other things, the Commission had argued.
The ECP also opined that holding polls across Pakistan in a single day, using EVMs, was not possible.
Tensions flared between both sides when Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry held a press conference a couple of days ago to say that no one is satisfied with the ECP because “it comes up with strange logic.”
Chaudhry had said that the PTI-led government had promised to make the ECP free, fair, and transparent, and to that end, a commission for reforms — headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk — was also formed. However, the ECP remains surrounded by controversies due to its “strange logic”.
The minister had said that the PTI government had asked the Opposition to come forward and participate in discussions related to electoral reforms.