ISLAMABAD - A think tank focussing on political and public policy research and legislative strengthening in its recently released report has said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) only achieved 54.20 percent progress on its stated objectives during the preceding quarter, ending on June 30, 2012.PILDAT has stated this in its third quarterly ‘Citizens Monitoring Report on State of Electoral Reforms in Pakistan: Implementation of the ECP 5-Year Strategic Plan’.Looking at the implementation of the ECP 5 year Strategic Plan in this backdrop, PILDAT assesses that the Election Commission has only managed to make 40 per cent progress on seventy nine (79) objectives which were scheduled to be achieved by the ECP by June 30, 2012 and 14 per cent progress on 44 objectives, whose realisation is due after June 30, 2012. The overall progress on the Strategic Plan is estimated to be 54 per cent (40 per cent + 14 per cent) as of June 30, 2012.Overall progress for all the 15 goals was assessed to be 53 per cent as of March 31, 2012. The report says that President Asif Ali Zardari’s dual office and its implications for the coming general elections are becoming more and more serious with each passing day. On June 27, 2012, a full bench of the Lahore High Court called upon the President of Pakistan to give up his political activities by September 5 in accordance with a May 12, 2011 judgment given by a larger bench against the holding of the office of PPP co-chairman also by him. According to the report, this quarter has also been significant for the verdict of the Supreme Court where on the one hand the judgement upheld the legal provision of expense limit for candidates for the National Assembly as well as provincial assemblies elections, it also ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to put in place mechanisms to ensure election expense limits are not violated by the candidates. Apparently going beyond its remit, however, the Supreme Court also ventured into what constitutes policy areas best left to the government and the Parliament as well as political parties of Pakistan to take, such as first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, compulsory voting, run-off election, and none of the above (NOTA) options in the ballot paper, etc.PILDTA further says that it remains to be seen that to what extent the ECP has been able to rectify the mistakes and update the electoral rolls. This is an extremely serious matter as all past efforts to prepare credible electoral rolls have failed in Pakistan despite spending huge sums of money.Based on the Supreme Court verdict, the Election Commission of Pakistan issued a detailed directive for bye-election in Multan (NA-151), the seat vacated by Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani after his disqualification. While most of these directives are very welcome initiatives to improve the compliance of electoral laws and rules by the candidates and political parties, the decision to provide transport to voters from distant polling stations at state expense and arranged by the ECP is rather questionable on more than one count. Apparently, establishing more polling stations closer to the population centres would have been a much better option.The reports stresses that openness and transparency at the ECP which had seen a very welcome improvement during the past 2 years appeared to have shrunk lately after the departure of the CEC Justice (Retired) Hamid Ali Mirza and Secretary Mr. Ishtiak Ahmad Khan in quick succession. The ECP could not hold any consultation with the political parties, civil society organizations and media during this quarter and the two forums established by the ECP for such consultations, the Civil Society Consultative Forum and the Political Parties Consultative Forum remained dormant during this time. A high degree of dynamism and activity was witnessed on the part of the Acting CEC during the quarter. He spent long hours in his office after discharging his routine daily duties as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He toured the country extensively and took some important decisions such as the directive of June 27 issued following the Supreme Court judgement on election expenses case. The ECP and the Supreme Court have moved to enforce the constitutional bar on dual nationality holders to be members of national and provincial legislatures. The steps taken by the ECP and the Supreme Court in enforcing these constitutional provisions will go a long way in strengthening the rule of law in the country. In the Senate Election, the ECP included a declaration in the nomination forms about the status of nationality of each candidate. The Supreme Court suspended the membership of 3 PPPP legislators on the basis of holding dual nationality during the reporting period. On June 6, the Supreme Court also ruled that the federal and provincial legislators who processed dual citizenship at the time of filing their nomination papers and did not validly renounce it then were disqualified to hold office. The Provincial Governments continued to defy their duty to hold Local Government Elections. The Judiciary, however, moved to ensure holding of Local Government Elections.In a significant departure from the usual practice, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs approved a package of electoral reforms proposing 50 amendments to electoral laws on May 28. It is, however, not clear whether government will initiate a bill to amend the electoral laws or it will be moved by members of the standing committee as a private member’s bill. Despite the hard work of the sub-committee, the ruling coalition is very slow in initiating the formal legislative process to amend the electoral laws and give effect to the proposed electoral reforms.