The Federal Cabinet, which met in Islamabad on Tuesday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in chair, held in-depth discussions on several issues of core interest to people of Pakistan and the world community and adopted a pragmatic posture to tackle them.
It approved two important ordinances as part of electoral reforms process to ensure transparency in elections and grant right of vote to overseas Pakistanis by introduction of modern technology.
Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly said in categorical terms that there would be no compromise on the blasphemy law as honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was above everything else for Muslims and also vowed to provide relief to people in the upcoming budget.
No one would oppose any move aimed at making electoral system fair and transparent and in this backdrop statement of Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhary that government’s electoral reforms consist of four parts, including EVMs, e-voting for overseas Pakistanis, biometric and legislation is a welcome initiative.
He said EVMs have already been developed and government unveiled its legislation agenda for the purpose while work is underway on biometric and e-voting.
The need for reforms has been highlighted by unending controversies surrounding the voting and counting process, denying elections the required credibility.
People also witnessed similar allegations of rigging and alteration of actual results in the case of latest by-elections in NA-249 in Karachi where the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already ordered recounting while re-polling was held in Daska after widespread allegations of fraud and rigging.
Under these circumstances, there is a need for national consensus on electoral reforms so that credibility of future elections, especially general elections, is not put at stake, otherwise no future government would be able to govern the country with peace of mind.
In fact, the process of reforms should have been carried out immediately after the general elections of 2018 as almost all parties complained about rigging but regrettably neither PTI government nor Opposition demonstrated required level of commitment to the cause of electoral reforms.
However, now that government has taken some initiatives and the Prime Minister has invited Opposition parties for a dialogue on the crucial issue, all stakeholders should work together to make this exercise meaningful.
As it is for the first time that EVMs would be introduced in Pakistan, it is but natural for opposition parties to exercise caution in view of what has been happening during elections in the past including sudden collapse of the result system in 2018 elections.
Introduction of technology in election system is one thing but there are, indeed, possibilities of manipulation of software and therefore, government should give due consideration to genuine suggestions of opposition parties so that a consensus arrangement is evolved.
Similarly, in principle, overseas Pakistanis should have the right of franchise but it would be next to impossible to devise a foolproof but cost effective mechanism in view of the fact that they are dispersed all over the globe.
Government’s resolve not to compromise on blasphemy law reflects aspirations of the people and it assumes special significance in the backdrop of latest resolution adopted by the European Union.
Though in its present shape the EU resolution is non-binding but further action by other forums of the Union could translate into trade losses.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry made a reassuring statement that government would not take any dictation (from the West) to settle internal issues, including action against banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
People of Pakistan would back this position of government but no entity should be allowed to dictate the state on foreign policy issues and relations with other countries.
As for relief in the budget, it was due since long and hopefully government would live up to expectations of the people from different walks of life while presenting proposals for the next budget.
It would be a Herculean task for authorities concerned to strike a balance between relief for people and a significant increase in tax collection in view of conditions the government has agreed with the IMF.
The opposition of Advisor on Trade Abdul Razak Dawood to six-day Eid holidays is understandable as it would negatively impact exports and imports and therefore, a viable solution should be found despite deteriorating Covid-19 situation in the country.