Electoral reforms

AT long last, the lengthy process of electoral reforms seems to be moving towards its culmination as Federal Cabinet, in principle, has cleared the consensus recommendations of Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms and now these would be laid down before Parliament next month for required constitutional amendments and passage of a consolidated electoral law. The process has already delayed considerably and it is hoped that next stages would be completed with more speed to ensure that everything is in place before next general election.
The reforms are fairly comprehensive and if enacted, implemented with the same spirit they have the potential to address most, if not all, complaints that we often hear from political parties and candidates as well as political observers and commentators. Election is a serious exercise as it reflects will of the people but, unfortunately, in Pakistan, it has become a disgrace as never in our chequered history any losing party accepted the outcome as is done in other democracies. This is mainly because there has been an impression that electoral exercise and results are manipulated in different ways. Pakistan adopted the Bangladesh model of neutral caretaker government during interim period to hold elections in a non-controversial and fair manner but despite utmost care exercised in selection of the interim team, there are still allegations of rigging and punctures. In this backdrop, it appears that package of reforms being proposed through consensus amongst all political parties would help ensure transparency of elections and restore their credibility. The main element of recommendations is functional, administrative and financial autonomy for the Election Commission of Pakistan, which has pivotal role in holding elections. It is not yet clear whether the powers envisaged for the ECP are comparable with that of the Indian Election Commission, which has enviable level of autonomy and conducts elections in a manner that is acceptable to all yet one expects there would be no loopholes. Similarly, there are clear provisions regarding delimitation, updating of electoral rolls, participation of women, counting and compilation of results as well as their real-time transmission to Returning Officer and the ECP, use of modern technology and preparation of an action plan six months ahead of a general election. However, it seems one of the burning issues that has been agitating the minds of the people i.e. growing influence of money in elections and rising election expenses seems to have been not addressed as per expectations of the people and this aspect should be looked into thoroughly.

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