PPP, PML-N to hold consultations for electoral reforms before general elections
ISLAMABAD – Ruling partners, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), will start formal consultations soon for electoral reforms before the country goes into the general elections, political sources said. Senior PPP leaders told The Nation that other allied parties will be part of the consultation process.
“The government wants even the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) to give its inputs. Electoral reforms are the need of the hour,” said a close aide of the PPP leadership.
He said the electoral reforms were the biggest objective of the present government. “There are so many issues but for a fair election, the electoral reforms are the key,” he added.
National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has already initiated a process to form a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms.
In this regard, he has written a letter to all parliamentary parties, including the PTI, to nominate members to the committee. The stated purpose of the committee’s formation is “to evaluate shortcomings of the elections and make recommendations for electoral reforms to ensure that elections are held in a free, fair and transparent manner.”
Five years ago in August 2017, the National Assembly had passed the Elections Bill 2017. Before passage of the bill in August 2017, the Parliamentary Committee on Election Reforms met 70 times over two years. The general election in 2018 was held under the new law.
The new law was a unified version of the earlier nine election laws. It also enhanced the powers of the Election Commission by reducing its dependence on government and parliament for making rules, budget, and creating positions.
The new law also paved the way to use technology for polling, such as Electronic Voting Machines (section 103) and I-voting for overseas citizens of Pakistan (section 94).
The Election Commission incorporated the use of technologies in its Strategic Plan 2019-23. In October 2018, the Supreme Court too, ordered the Commission to plan for overseas Pakistanis to cast votes through I-voting in the by-elections.
By the end of 2020, severe differences surfaced between the PTI-led government and the opposition parties on the use of technology, which has become intense since the overthrow of the PTI-led government.
The new ruling coalition in general and PPP, in particular, appears to be more serious in reversing the use of technology, while PTI wants strict implementation of the elections law.
PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, who is also the Advisor to Prime Minister, said the electoral reforms will be completed before the general elections. He said Pakistan needs to do away with the rigging issue once for all. “Whenever elections are held, we see the same claims. We need to move forward and resolve the issues. The elections must be free and fair,” he maintained.