ISLAMABAD: Parliament must not be turned into a cantonment and political parties must expel those members who meet with the personnel of secret agencies.

This was stated by Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai on the floor of the National Assembly on Friday.

“It is unfortunate that the will of the people has not been respected. We must decide not to allow secret agencies a role in parliament. There is a need to strengthen parliament and it must be the fount where all domestic and external decisions and polices are formulated,” Achakzai added.

“Was Pakistan created to provide immunity to military generals?” Achakzai thundered, pointing out that unfortunately several Prime Ministers had been removed; however “we will have to ensure supremacy of Parliament; the only way to run Pakistan is to strengthen parliament,” he emphasized.

“First politicians were corrupted, then their files were prepared and then they were blackmailed,” he claimed.

“Today, we should all take oath to strengthen Parliament and those judges who refused to take oath under Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) should be honoured, and their children compensated. Those who took the oath under PCO should be dismissed,” Achkazai said.

“I salute those generals, judges and officers of secret agencies who played their due role under the Constitution and only admitted the authority of those who accept the authority of the Constitution,” he added.

Nawaz Sharif was a product of the military but, with the passage of time, realized that this way was wrong.

Speaking on the ongoing debate on ‘Election Bill, 2017’, Achakzai claimed that genuine elections were not held in the country after 1970. He said “we should make every effort to hold free, fair and transparent elections in 2018”.

Earlier, the National Assembly suspended its regular business to discuss the Elections Bill, 2017.

While opening the debate, Syed Naveed Qamar of PPP said that there are many positive things in the Bill but there is a need to remove some loopholes in the draft of the legislation. He urged the government to employ electronic voting machines in the next general elections.

Qamar suggested that the result of elections should be uploaded immediately on the website of the Election Commission; and objected to the expenditure allowed to a candidate for campaigning and for providing transport facilities to voters to reach polling stations.

Ballot papers should not be published in the market and special arrangements should be made for this purpose, Qamar said, adding that it would be our collective failure in the event we cannot stop rigging or manipulation in the next general elections.

PTI lawmaker Dr. Shireen Mehrunisa Mazari acknowledged that PTI actively participated in the discussions on the draft Elections Bill, 2017 and recommended that constitutional amendments should be made along with the passage of the bill which, she contended, is crucial for free and fair elections.

She made four demands to ensure holding of free, fair and transparent elections: (i) the need to introduce bio-metric system, (ii) grant of right of vote to Overseas Pakistanis, (iii) appointment of caretaker set-up by the parliamentary committee comprising 50 percent from opposition and treasury benches each, and (iv) reconstitution of Election Commission of Pakistan.

MQM legislator S. A. Iqbal Qadri said that all five of the party’s proposals have been included in the bill and appreciated the Minister for Law & Justice Zahid Hamid over his tremendous work on finalizing the draft; he demanded a level playing field for all with less financial burden on those who participate in the elections.

Sahibzada Tariq Ullah of Jamaat-e-Islami said that it is good to give financial powers and authority to the Election Commission of Pakistan and “it is now its responsibility to manage election affairs in a transparent manner”. He further proposed that political parties should be allowed to contest elections and a party which gets the maximum number of votes should be allowed to form the government.

He also supported the proposal of S. A. Iqbal Qadri and said that financial expenditures of a candidate should be reduced to provide an opportunity to the poor to participate in elections.

JUI-F legislator Naeema Kishwar Khan said that her party is not in favour of repealing Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution but added that it is however in favour of removing ambiguities from Articles 62 and 63 through an amendment.