Islamabad - Political leaders and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Tuesday called for fearless electoral reforms in Pakistan, suggesting that the constitutional obligation of appointing retired Supreme Court judges to lead Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) needs to be revisited.

In a nationwide survey conducted by UNDP during the launching of the fourth edition of its quarterly magazine, as many as 49 percent people expressed dissatisfaction with the existing electoral system while 55 percent said electoral reforms were necessary.

Representatives of political forces including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) who attended the event spoke about bringing drastic changes in electoral system.

Senate Chairman and PPP stalwart Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, who was chief guest on the occasion, too called for strengthening electoral system in the country and doing away with the traditional set-up of the ECP. According to UNDP, the existing requirement that only Supreme Court judge can be appointed as chief election commissioner (CEC) has ensured that the pool of candidates for the appointment is extremely small.

“Reformists in Pakistan should consider if the appointment of the members and staff could be expanded beyond the judiciary to attract a broader pool of talented individuals from other sectors,” the UNDP observed. The reforms according to UNDP should also include mandatory retirement ages along the lines of many countries. It said that in India, Canada and Malaysia, members of the commission must retire at the age of 65.

Senator Haji Adeel of ANP said that the best performing head of election commission in India was a civil servant, adding that in Pakistan, the ECP should be headed by professionals other than judges.

Minister of State for Science and Technology, Anusha Rehman, said that population census was a must before embarking on election reforms, adding that population had surged manifold which accordingly needed fresh delimitation in constituencies.

However, PTI’s lawmaker Shafqat Mahmood said election reforms could be undertaken without waiting for the census, arguing that his party in KP agreed to hold local bodies election using CNIC method by withdrawing the demand of biometric system.

“What electoral reforms need is that all political forces should be sincere in introducing changes in electoral system. We have already lost enough time so we cannot afford to wait further,” the PTI leader said. Senator Farhatullah Babar said the recommendations put forth by UNDP should be considered by the electoral reforms committee and they should be inculcated in the proposed reforms.

Earlier in his remarks, Marc-Andre Franche, UNDP Pakistan Country Director, said that in any country, even in well-established democracies, the legal framework and administrative processes for elections needed to be seen as organic requiring regular review and modification.

From our experience in electoral reform in dozens of countries around the world, he said, successful implementation of electoral reform was conditioned by two factors; sustained political commitment from all parties and an electoral management body possessing the ability and authority to be the vanguard of the implementation process.

The UNDP in its report also revealed that in 2013 general elections, the ECP with UNDP digitised major components of the results compilation and secured the manual components with tamper-evident bags.

It proposed that electoral reforms committee regardless of political implications must be fearless in its actions by being able to actively protect the sanctity of electoral process.