Imran Khan’s agenda behind his protests is becoming increasingly hard to pin down with any level of confidence. What started out protesting against corruption in four seats, turned into demands for wide ranging electoral reform, and have now morphed into a rant against everything. Yet the defining ‘theme’ of his protests remains electoral reform. The optimistic amongst the country hope that if the democracy manages to survive its trial by fire, the resulting public scrutiny and political pressure will lead to some meaningful electoral reform; assuming, of course, that this is what Imran really wants. If he does, what might those reforms be?

Characteristically, PTI demands are vague and populist. On their party website, the “demands for electoral reform” are just 8 points; most of them asking for returning officers and SC to be held accountable. The only real reform that was proposed was the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in the next election. Despite this lack of a clear roadmap, the recently constituted Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform is expected to bring some concrete proposals to the fore.

Surprisingly, the biggest impetus for electoral reform is coming from the ECP itself. In odds to the bleak picture of the ECP painted by the ‘revolutionaries’ it is working on extensive and comprehensive internal reform, and has been doing it since 2010. It unveiled the “Five Year Strategic Plan” in 2010, aiming to improve budgetary autonomy, dispute management, logistical issues and numerous other objectives. Its biggest achievement has been to compile a voter roll based on the computerised ‘CNIC’ instead of the archaic NIC. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) collaborated with the ECP and said it managed to achieve 80% of its goals. In June 2014, it launched a second Five Year Strategic Plan with similarly wide ranging objectives. It plans to end candidates’ ability to stand in multiple constituencies, and therefore avoid time consuming and expensive by-elections. It has already started consultations with the government for introducing pilot EVM machines. It plans on increasing the human capital and infrastructure to ensure less borrowing from other departments at election time.

Despite this, think tanks such as PILDAT and International Crisis Group have identified areas of further reform; a comprehensive RO training program, more streamlined tribunals and using polling staff from a different constituency.

There seems to already be a system in place for achieving reform; whether that system will deliver will depend on political motivations. The changes proposed are sensible and long overdue; Imran Khan needs to use his political backing to ensure they are seen through.