The PTI-led federal government’s proposed amendments to election laws deserve serious consideration and debate to pave the way for free and fair elections in the future. Elections are a fundamental exercise in every democracy. The cause of representative politics in Pakistan suffers immensely when political parties claim fraud and express lack of confidence in the process each time elections are held. Be it contests for local bodies, the Senate, the federal or provincial assemblies – losers always claim they should have won while winners boast that their margin of victory should have been bigger, only if the process had not been compromised.

The concerned committee has made 39 recommendations to make the process more credible. Perhaps the most relevant one is the proposal of holding the Senate elections through an open ballot. Senate elections have become especially notorious for regular instances of horse trading and corruption. An open ballot would certainly help put an end to that shady business. Another recommendation proposes a three-year imprisonment for corrupt Presiding Officers (POs). This may help deter some bad apples from violating their oath, but there is a need to identify and punish elements that use either fear or money to compel POs to break the law in the first place.

To address another recommendation, making it mandatory for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to finalise the polling scheme, election plan and delimitation of constituencies within a stipulated deadline will not work unless provincial governments cooperate as well. In a previous editorial, this paper has identified how the ECP is unable to proceed with delimitations due to the failure of provincial governments in providing requisite data despite repeated requests.

It is hoped that political parties will be able to unite on the agenda of electoral reforms, and after necessary debate and deliberations, they will offer support to the PTI government to make useful amendments. The government too should remain receptive to just criticism and incorporate good suggestions into the proposed plan.