ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to remove hiccups in the way of evolving consensus on draft electoral reforms bill so that it could be tabled before the National Assembly (NA) for legislation at the earliest.

The ruling PML-N wanted to get the electoral reforms bill through from the parliament ahead of budget session but as the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms could not evolve consensus on certain issues, the matter was deferred and would likely be taken up in the upcoming session of the NA.

Sources said that the sub-committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms was engaged in clearing differences among the participants on some contentious issues and hopefully they come up with a consensus draft bill in the next few days.

Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Chief Aftab Sherpao, who is also member of the committee, admitted the differences among the parties on certain issues, but he was optimistic about it because all the participants were positively trying to bring a flawless draft bill for electoral reforms.

Terming it a complex matter, which involves a lot of changes in the constitution, Sherpao said that such things required a lot of time adding that the main issues were resolved and now the members were almost close to finalising the electoral reforms bill.

The parliamentary committee was assigned the task of bringing structural reforms in the prevalent electoral system in mid-2014 and it was required to complete the task in 90 days but since then it had been lingering on, on one pretext or the other, and in the coming July 2017, the committee would be completing three years time, so the pressure on government from various quarters was mounting for its early completion.

In the last week of December 2016, the finance minister had tabled the second interim report of the committee before the parliament and sought the reflection of the parliamentarians on it within 30 days.

Similarly, the report was also uploaded on the website with the aim to have public input, legal fraternity and other stakeholders in the period specified.

However, some sources in the parliament were of the view that even after the passage of the proposed electoral reforms draft bill 2017 it would require several months to put it on ground.

These sources said that till now the committee could not decide on using the electronic voting machines in the elections, and even after several dozen meetings the sub-committee of the electoral reforms committee could not finalise matters on the issue.

The introduction of electronic voting machines in the elections would require a lot of finances and trained staff, which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) could not manage in a few months time. Sources further said that the chances of holding of next general elections under the new electoral laws, yet to be approved by the parliament seemed a far cry.

They said that the chances of passage of the electoral reforms laws from the parliament would not be possible before the budget session.

The only achievement on part of the committee was the 22nd Constitution Amendment that had changed the eligibility criteria of members of the ECP in May last as recommended by the committee on electoral reforms.

Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms was constituted under Rule 224(b) of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of National Assembly 2007 by the parliament in June last but the committee was formally put in place by end of July 2014 under the chairmanship of Federal Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, the most trusted fellow of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The 33-member committee faced its first setback when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members of the committee boycotted its proceedings following their resignations from the National Assembly and had hardly participated in any of its working session.

But even after the boycott of the PTI MPs, chairman of the committee Ishaq Dar had expressed his resolve to accomplish the task within three months time but now almost double the time has passed, and the committee seems nowhere on ground what to speak of accomplishing the task assigned to it. The PTI, which wanted to see the task assigned to the 33-member committee accomplished within a month, is now mum over the undue delay.