The government and the opposition have once again achieved a landmark by unanimously passing the 20th Amendment. Despite having political and ideological differences, the political leadership stands united for strengthening democracy. Hence, Parliament has managed to defy its critics by producing a consensus on the 20th Amendment.

According to the amendment, the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and four provincial members will be conducted after reaching a consensus on their names with the opposition leader; their tenure has also been increased to five years. These measures would ensure the independence, impartiality and credibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and strengthen its setup. In addition, the framework laid out by the amendment seeks the appointment of a caretaker Prime Minister and Chief Ministers in consultation with the opposition leader in the National Assembly. The mechanism formulated after the negotiation will empower a Parliamentary Committee, comprising six members from the treasury and opposition benches on parity basis, to decide the names of the PM and CMs. If the PM/CM and opposition leader fail to nominate one with consensus, it will forward the list of nominees to the ECP, which will make the final appointments to form a caretaker government before the elections.

Of course, a transparent procedure would enhance the neutrality of the caretaker setup. The Prime Minister, while commenting on the amendment, said: “It guarantees that future caretaker governments would be impartial, neutral and would ensure free and fair elections in the future.” The opposition leader, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said: “Perhaps, not a single Election Commission in the world has so many powers as we are going to give powers to our Election Commission.” The Upper House has passed the 20th Amendment Bill by more than a two-third majority. After the assent of President, it would become an Act.

Needless to say, the PPP has proved time and again that it would continue to follow the principles of national reconciliation and consensus. The passage of the 20th Amendment is a manifestation of its policy. President Asif Ali Zardari earlier through the 18th Amendment surrendered his presidential powers to Parliament in the interest of the nation and democracy, and now he has shown how much his government is interested in holding of free and fair elections under a neutral caretaker setup.

We should also appreciate the opposition, especially the PML-N, which has contributed a lot in the process; this is a victory for democracy, and a mature and promising step taken by the political leadership. It has paved the way for a strong democracy, and free, fair and transparent elections in the future. One can hope that the future elections, which are around the corner, will be the most transparent in the history of Pakistan, paving the way for a peaceful and smooth transition of power.

Indeed, this is good omen in the politics of Pakistan. The PPP leadership has always tried to convince other political parties that problems can be resolved only through consensus. So, the need of the hour is that the political leaders should reach a consensus and draft a policy to resolve issues like terrorism, energy crisis, inflation, etc, confronting Pakistan, so that more people can lead better, happier lives.

The writer is a freelance columnist.