CREDIBILITY of election results in Pakistan, except those of 1970 elections, has always been marred by the claims of rigging, particularly by those who lose the election contest.
PTI government’s latest proposal on electoral reforms should be deemed as a positive step towards the conduct of free and fair elections in the country. Free and fair election is one of the first founding bricks in a true democratic setup.
Suggestion to introduce Electronic Voting Machine and awarding the right to vote to Overseas Pakistanis are two major points of the proposed electoral reforms, presented by PTI government.
To strengthen the roots of democracy in the country, it becomes incumbent upon Parliament to invite all political parties to enter in to a mutual dialogue to formulate and finalize the “Must needed” electoral reforms. The onus of the reforms mainly lies on Parliament, though.
One very basic reforms which electoral system of Pakistan needs urgent address and redress is the electoral candidate’s eligibility process.
Scrutiny process of the candidates which nation observed during 2013 election was a slap in the face of the nation.
Scrutiny process, responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan, must be rigorous, honest and impartial for all those who intend to participate in the election.
ECP must use all resources such as FBR, FIA, Income Tax, HEC and Police Department to ensure honest and clean candidates to become eligible to participate in the election race.
Loan defaulters, chronic tax evaders, fake degree holders and those having criminal background cannot stand in the row to race with other clean and honest candidates.
ECP, on its hands, must have ample time to completely scrutinize all intending election candidates.
Owing to the complexity of scrutiny process a minimum period of one hundred and eighty days should be allocated to filter out honest and clean candidates to participate in the election.
The current policy of ECP to let garbage in and sifting it later to sort out clean, honest and rightfully elected candidates is sheer wastage of tax payer money.
At number of places, for National and Provincial Assemblies, reelection has to take place due to post-election ineligibility of the candidates who won the election initially.
This situation occurs due to incomplete and non rigorous scrutiny of contesting candidates by ECP.
Law must also be made to enable ECP to restrict contesting of election by any candidate to a maximum of two constituencies.
The effects of this proposed new rule, if implemented, will prove beneficial for the strengthening of democratic culture of Pakistan.
Ever since Pakistan came into existence politics in the country remained under the feudal grip.
Rich, powerful and influential families have been participating from multiple constituencies which results in leaving little space for a common man to take part in the election process.
“Maximum two constituency limit” will allow a wider public representation in the election. It will also allow new young and energetic politicians to enter into the political arena of the country, which means slowly drifting away from dynastic politics.
Dynastic style of prevailing politics has served very little to the masses in this country. Factually speaking, rich, powerful and influential have been the main beneficiaries of this political system.
ECP must make it mandatory for the candidates, contesting in two constituencies simultaneously, to pay for the election expenses of one of the two constituencies.
It is a common practice of most of the election candidates to participate in the election from several different constituencies.
After winning from more than one places, they only can retain one seat, rest have to be vacated.
Election Commission then calls for reelection on the vacant seat(s). Conducting an election is an expensive process and needs a lot of resources.
Pakistan’s economy is already experiencing severe financial constraints and cannot afford to allow playing “Election Sport” any further. It is taxpayer money which is used by ECP to hold election.
This proposal will certainly not attract those who have been playing election sport for generation spanning over decades.
Participation in election is one of the ways by which they keep themselves in the limelight and in the corridors of power.
However, people in general will warmly welcome this proposal to be given a shape of law and to be implemented for the next and all future elections.
Strong Pakistan and stable democracy are linked together mutually. In the supreme interest of both, Pakistan and democracy, all political forces, politicians, intellectuals and think-tanks must come forward with new and fresh ideas to help Parliament and ECP to devise new election rules, overhaul existing ones to ensure all future elections in Pakistan to be held at schedule, fairly and freely.
Dubious and fraud tinted election, turn after turn, will not serve democracy or country in any way.
True democracy will nurture and its roots will only penetrate deep into the society if election results are deemed credible by everyone, or at least by the majority of the population of this country.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Rawalpindi.