In the wake of the Judicial Commission report, the Election Commission Pakistan (ECP) has been hard at work revamping the electoral reforms under a 34-member Parliamentary Committee. This committee on Electoral reforms announced that it has completed 80% of the job and gave its subcommittee, comprising of 11 members including MNAs Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhary of PML-N and Dr Arif Alvi of PTI, one-month time to evolve consensus on proposed constitutional amendments. The fast-track improvement of the ECP is definitely one that should be appreciated, however the Local Government (LG) Polls have for the umpteenth time, been pushed forward till the remaining work at the ECP is complete.

The proposed constitutional amendments aim to make the ECP a more autocratic and independent functioning body to ensure better transparency in the next elections. A proposed amendment would empower the ECP to take disciplinary action against polling staff, including police if found guilty of contravention of law during polling. This is a much-needed suggestion as accountability is key to transparent and fair elections, be it the appointment of the CEC or the role of police.

In another valuable recommendation, the ECP would be empowered to declare null and void any election in which less than 10 per cent women voters exercised their right to franchise. Although this is a positive step to encourage women voter participation, it requires much more than just a reform to envision as a reality. In some of the tribal areas where women are actively forbidden to vote, this law will indeed prove helpful, but what about the areas where turnout of women is generally low due to other factors such as illiteracy or a lack of interest in politics? Women have to be empowered and educated for them to be an integral part of the voting process in the upcoming elections or this amendment may be a source of contention in the future.

Among other issues, electronic voting machines and biometric verification identification systems were actively discussed and more importantly the feasibility of overseas Pakistanis being able to exercise the right to vote, is currently being discussed. The outcome of this will be detrimental to a large population of Pakistanis who so passionately and actively follow political developments back home.

The ECP may well overhaul its reforms and the effort is appreciated but extending the enforcement of these reforms to the LG Polls is both ridiculous and an unnecessary delay. The new amendments can be worked upon meanwhile and implemented in the next general elections. Whether the purpose of the electoral reforms is to make ECP better or ensure a favourable outcome, we do not know, but in any case the LG polls deserve to be carried out without further postponement.