ISLAMABAD - After facing ire of the national assembly, the election commission came under fire in the senate on Friday when a PPP lawmaker said that the telephone call of Chief Election Commissioner to Leader of the Opposition in the NA was tantamount to pre-poll rigging.

Senator Saeed Ghani also alleged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was taking instructions from certain media houses. “The credibility of the ECP is at stake as it is taking guidelines from certain media groups,” he said.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ibrahim on the other day had made a call to Chaudhry Nisar Ali of PML-N to pacify him after he, in the Lower House of the parliament, severely criticised the commission over a letter sent to the parliamentarians for the verification of their degrees. ECP had written letters to 249 parliamentarians including Chaudhry Nisar seeking their educational certificates for onward verification from the Higher Education Commission (HEC). A warning of legal action by the ECP in that letter to the potential non-compliant lawmakers was seen by Nisar as derogatory and he challenged the commission to do whatever it can.

Senator Ghani said the phone call by CEC to the opposition leader was pre-poll rigging. “If ECP would work under the pressure of media, its roll would become suspicious,” he said. Ghani further alleged that the ECP letter to 249 lawmakers was inappropriate and a move to malign politicians, adding that Nisar was quite right in saying that ECP was busy in maligning the politician. He asked the ECP to only take measures for transparent polls rather than trying to ‘purify’ the whole nation.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Ishaq Dar proposed to Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari that Parliamentary Committee on Election Issues should look into the matter of degrees’ verification. The chair remarked that the issue does not fall under the committee’s preview however it would look into the matter. Dar also said the demand of 30-day scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates would be unconstitutional as the elections process has to be completed within 60 days as per the constitution.

An independent legislator Senator Mohsin Leghari showed his disappointment over Pakistan’s losing its case in the International Court of Arbitration on her share of water from India. He said India had established its right over water but Pakistani team failed to pursue the case properly because its head Kamal Majidullah, who was appointed by the PM, was an editor of a newspaper by profession and he had no expertise in water issues. He also regretted that Neelum Jehlum Power Project, which was initiated in 1989, could not be completed in two decades and the cost of the project had increased up to 350 times.

Opposition leader Ishaq Dar sought ruling from the chair for a proper direction to the government for a briefing on the economic and law and order situation of the country. He showing his apprehensions said the government during its five-year term changed five finance ministers. He demanded the house be informed about the exact economic situation of the county so that a way forward could be suggested. He also said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik was not ready to give an in-camera briefing to the house on security situation of the country, though he had earlier offered that voluntarily.

PPP Chief Whip in the Senate Islamuddin Sheikh said the government did not want to conceal facts from the house but prime minister’s approval would be needed for an in-camera briefing and a request in this connection had been forwarded. Senator Zahid Khan said the claim of Rehman Malik was wrong that law and order was the prime responsibility of the provinces as, except the Special Branch of police, all the intelligence agencies were under the administrative control of the federal government. “Why he seeks reports from the provinces on law and order if it was not his responsibility,” he questioned. Senators Hamdullah Hamad of JUI-F objected to the signing of an agreement of handing over Gawadar Port to China under the supervision of governor’s rule.

 Hasil Khan Bazenjo of National Party Balochistan said the people of Dera Ghazi G Khan were demanding to make their area a part of Balochistan instead of the newly proposed Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab and he urged the need for changes in the limits of provinces.

Senator Sughra Imam pointed out that many issues regarding elections had not been addressed so far. She said the electoral rolls had not been dispatched to the constituencies concerned and 3.7 million voters had neither biometric fingerprints nor photos on the rolls. The chair observed that first the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Election Issues should come before the house and then all the matters would be discussed. The house was adjourned to meet on Monday at 4pm.