ISLAMABAD - Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms has directed Election Commission of Pakistan to present the record of the complaints they had received against the Returning Officers during the 2013 general elections, so that it could examine the same and take some preventive steps to ensure such lapses do not occur in future.

Continuing with presentation on the fact-sheet prepared by the ECP on general elections, Secretary Election Commission Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan admitted before the committee that they had received a number of complaints about Returning Officers in the last general elections but no action could be taken against them as it was beyond their statutory domain.

In another development, the Electoral Reforms Committee had received over 500 suggestions and proposals to make the future elections more fair and transparent from various civil society organisations across the country and a sub-committee was constituted to review all these proposals and suggestions to prepare report on it after sifting doable suggestions from the vague and impracticable ones.

On revelation about the complaints about Returning Officers and the inaction of ECP against them for want of powers, the Parliamentary Committee directed ECP officials to present details about it to the committee so that corrective steps could be taken to plug such loopholes in future.

Responding to members’ queries in this connection, the Secretary Election Commission informed that they could only forward complaints against the Returning Officers to their parent department for action and usually such complaints remained unattended.

Referring to the limitations of ECP and indifference of successive governments towards its empowerment, he said that some three years back they had sought some administrative powers for recruitment in the departments but the response on their request is still awaited.

He further informed that scrutiny of nomination papers of around 25000 candidates was not possible within seven days period and they had requested for enhancing the period to 15 days.

To a member’s question, the Secretary Election Commission informed that they had ensured provision of ballot papers to all the polling stations across the country and said that the time for printing of ballot papers should also be increased to 30 from existing 21 days.

ANP leader Haji Adeel said that why there is no Printing Press of Pakistan’s unit in Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa due to which the ballot papers for all elections in the province were got printed from Lahore.

To a question, the Secretary informed that majority of the political parties contesting the 2013 general elections had recommended taking Returning Officers from judiciary.

The Parliamentary Committee asked the ECP officials to present the details of all those political parties, which had recommended or supported the move of taking Returning Officers from judiciary.

Concluding the recommendations from the ECP side, Ishtiaq said that he has presented all the suggestions and proposals for making the future elections transparent and now it would up to the Parliamentary Committee to recommend formal legislation on it.

Without pointing out the continuous absence of the PTI members of the committee Chairman of the committee Senator Ishaq Dar directed the members to be punctual and ensure their presence in the committee’s meetings.

Sources aware of the developments taking place on this front informed The Nation that the committee could take disciplinary action against the members for their continuous abstaining the committee’s meetings without intimation, but chairman of the committee was adopting restraint and giving chance to the members to attend the upcoming sessions of the body.

Talking to media after the committee’s meeting, PPP central leader and Leader of Opposition in Senate Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan said that he would soon bring a white paper on massive rigging in last general elections and was just waiting for the departure of the parties staging sit-ins at Constitution Avenue.

He further said that he had completed his homework and was waiting for the departure of the people staging sit-ins because he did not want to create problems for government by making the document public.