ISLAMABAD - Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said on Tuesday that Pakistan was at a critical juncture where all roads other than democracy would lead to the disintegration of the federation.

While addressing a seminar on electoral reforms organised by Democracy International here, the Senate chairman said that strong federation calls for stable democratic institutions and every action which was considered against federation should be questioned by the people no matter where that decision comes from.

Rabbani said that work of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER) on lacunas in election procedures was a right step by the Parliament. He said that Parliament of Pakistan itself came forward to work on electoral reforms instead of a committee of the government. The parliamentary committee had a representation of political parties and stakeholders have also been invited, he said.

The Senate chairman appreciated the first two reports of the PCER. He stressed the need for filling the gaps in election procedures and for the required amendments in the constitution. Rabbani said that the laws existed previously too but those laws enhanced the powers of the Election Commission (EC). “The EC, however, did not make use of its authority and kept looking towards military establishment and judiciary.”

Rabbani observed that the EC should not have had any fears in carrying out its due role as its powers were defined in the constitution. He said that criticism for the sake of criticism was not the solution but “when laws are not implemented and their presence is confined to just books in libraries, it points fingers towards the institution as well as the people associated with it”.

He said that elections have three constituents. They have to be free, fair and democratic.  He said that if democratic values did not grow in a society, a common man will not understand the significance of the Parliament and that of his vote. “The citizens will associate themselves with the Parliament when it is transparent.”

The Senate chairman said that the civil-military bureaucracy and the ruling elite were not ready to have real democracy in the country. He said that “we haven't reached the stage where the vote of an individual has worth and it is considered as a factor to determine the future of the country”.

He said that the state still wants to impose their (baboos, ruling elite) whims as policy for the country which determines the lives of the citizens.

Earlier, parliamentarians from both sides of the aisle and civil society representatives commended the efforts of the PCER for presenting the draft Elections Bill, 2017, urging the Parliament to consider key improvements to the draft legislation and its timely enactment ahead of the 2018 elections.

The bill is currently open for public comment till January 19. While presenting the interim analysis on the draft bill, Democracy Reporting International Country representative Hassan Nasir Mirbahar highlighted the strengths and potential areas for improvements in line with international electoral standards. He emphasised that prompt passage of the bill was essential to allow sufficient time for its implementation. He also recognised the committee’s initiatives of seeking input from the general public and key stakeholders that will enhance transparency of the process.