ISLAMABAD - The Senate yesterday passed the 22nd Constitutional Amendment Bill with two-third majority under which changes could be made in the eligibility criteria for the appoint of members and chief of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) amid reservations of the opposition that the bill was poorly drafted having major mistakes.

The house passed the Constitution (Twenty -second Amendment) Act, 2016 with a narrow margin of one vote than the required two third majority in the 104-member upper house of the Parliament. The bill got 71 votes in favour and none was cast against.

The National Assembly has already passed this constitutional amendment bill and it will now be sent to the President for his final assent.

As some clauses of the bill were passed with 69 votes in favour and one vote of independent Senator Mohsin Leghari was cast against it, generating a new controversy that whether the 69 number fulfilled the required number of two-third majority or not in the 104-member house. Speaking in terms of Mathematics, the required number of two-third majority is 69.33 and the round figure should be 69. Legal expert Senator Dr Babar Awan while briefing media persons outside the Senate Hall said that the counting was made illegally on some clauses of the bill. "As the constitution says that the amendment can only be made with not less than two-third majority, the number of votes should not be less than 69.33 and thus 70 votes were needed for passage of each clause," he explained.

Before the house passed the constitutional amendment, the opposition strongly criticised the government over the poor drafting of the bill and the way, it was being assailed through the house. Majority of lawmakers said that the bill was being passed in haste because term of members of ECP as well as chief election commissioner would expire on June 10. "We will not let make the Senate a rubber stamp," said a lawmaker and added that the house was withdrawing from its right to discuss any bill in the standing committee.

The bill actually changes the legibility criteria of the appointment of all members of the commission and the commissioner as earlier only judges of the superior judiciary could become members of the commission as well as CEC. Now a civil servant retired in BPS 22 or a technocrat with not more than 68 years of age can become the member or commissioner along with retired judges of the superior judiciary.

Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said that a number of the opposition lawmakers had reservations on at least two amendments. "The use of word BPS (basic pay scale) for the civil servants is improper as BPS is not part of constitution rather it is in the rules and secondly word servant is being substituted with staff and that is inconsistent with the constitution also," he said and later a number of lawmakers endorsed his viewpoint. He also said that 68 years of age proposed for the members was a bit more. "It is a bad drafted legislation," he said adding that the government should commit that it would rectify these mistakes in the next constitutional amendment. However, PTI lawmaker Mohsin Aziz doubted that the government would not honour its commitments following the past precedents.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said it was a wrong tendency that the bill should be passed in the same session in which the National Assembly had already passed it. Dr Babar Awan said that the house was invoking the doctrine of necessity through the passage of this bill.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the government had introduced the bill as all parliamentary parties had consensus in the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms that the eligibility criteria for the members and commissioner should be changed.

"It will be grossly unfair to say that we are passing it only because NA passed it. Some members who spoke against the bill are also part of this parliamentary committee," he said. He said that the government had taken on board all the parties before introducing this bill. Law Minister Zahid Hamid said some mistakes could be rectified in the electoral reforms package that had yet to come. At the end, Aitzaz said they were not against the bill but opposition parties had a clear stance that they should not be made a rubber stamp.

Speaking on an adjournment motion about the situation arising out of the drone attack that killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, Farhatullah Babar said there was clear contradiction in the state policy that Taliban were not in its control after the revelation that Mullah Mansour had a Pakistani CNIC and passport. He posed a question whether CNIC was issued to him due to involvement of state or corruption in Nadra.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed questioned the policy of the government on drone attacks and asked what about the impact of recent drone hit on US-Pak relations as well as on Afghan peace process. JUI-F lawmaker Hafiz Hamdullah said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, the other day, criticised the drone strike at a cup of tea in the parliament house but he did not show reaction with his actions. "To take a stance at a cup of tea is not a big thing," he said and added that US ambassador should be expelled from the country. He said that US sabotages the peace talks through the drone strike as it had been doing in the past.

Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz winding up the debate said that the peace talks had seriously affected due to this incident but Pakistan would continue with its peace efforts through quadrilateral group.

"We are taking up this issue in the UN Human Rights Council." He said that reports were wrong that Taliban chose their new chief in Pakistan rather the meeting was held in Kandhahar, Afghanistan.

“We are in touch with Iran on this issue. This drone strike had led to intensify violence in Afghanistan,” he said adding that they needed effective measures for repatriation of Afghan refugees and effective border management.

At the end, Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said that they took very strong exception to the remarks of President Barack Obama that drone strikes would continue when they would feel any threat.