The state is dragging its feet over the electoral reforms that we were supposed to see before the advent of the 2018 general elections. One of the most important changes to take place before the next round of the electoral franchise is the purchase of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), to replace the old thumbprint voting process, but even this necessary change is taking much longer than it should. Procuring 300,000 EVMs – an important purchase – is likely to cost the country Rs30 billion. This means that the government has till June to get its act together and chalk out some reforms, or else the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will be unable to get the funds released after the yearly budget has been finalised.

Reports reveal that progress (or lack thereof) on the electoral reforms is also ostensibly linked to the procurement of these machines. The ECP will need time to implement any proposed changes; it has a list of 15 tasks to complete before the elections are held, regardless of whether any changes to electoral laws are made in time. These include delimitation/reformulation of constituencies, updating the electoral rolls, enlisting political parties, appointing and training returning officers and others.

Less than a week after ECP Secretary wrote a letter to the National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq in the hopes to get the electoral reforms process expedited, the body finally ended its month-long boycott of the meetings regarding the subject, at the request of the speaker. While ending the boycott is a positive step, there was every indication that the institution, or at least some within it, were planning on extending this boycott, which reflects an overall indifference of all stakeholders (except the public).

At this point it is still touch-and-go, everyone involved in reforming the electoral process has essentially pointed fingers at one another for not dealing with this task earnestly. However, the truth is that the issue is only now being brought to light because there is not much time left before the next elections – the changes have to made now, or the people will have to wait through another government before any improvements can be seen.