The electoral reforms have hit another snag, and this time the differences are multifaceted whereas both the government and the opposition seem in no mood of retreat.
Be it the use of electronic and bio-metric machines, autonomy of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), right of vote to overseas Pakistanis or modalities of printing voters’ lists, the participates have conflicting views. The PPP and the PTI hold ruling PML-N responsible for the delay whereas the MQM thinks that PTI was responsible.
Insiders claim that there is deadlock on almost every single issue being discussed by the parliamentary panel regarding the electoral reforms. The approval of draft Election Bill 2017 has further been delayed. The Dar led committee has convened 23 meetings, while more than 80 meetings have been held by the sub-committee led by Law Minister Zahid Hamid to final the draft bill.
On May 11, the electoral reforms committee, headed by senior Minister Ishaq Dar, turned down the sub-committee’s proposal to introduce EVMs and BVMs in the upcoming elections in 2018. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lodged strong protest, and the committee’s discussion on this issue lasted over one hour. Arif Alvi boycotted the proceedings and left the committee meeting in middle, while alleging the government for dilly-dallying tactics.
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) intervened, asking the Election Commission of Pakistan and the treasury legislators to finalise BVMs arrangements in the elections in case EVMs are not much reliable. But this proposal also met the same fate.
PPP’s MNA Shazia Mari held that the government was not ready to introduce any kind of reforms. They want to shelve the elector reforms mission, she opined, adding that ECP was also dragging feet from use of machines in the elections.
The head of the panel, Ishaq Dar, refused to comment on the pending issues. He said that the committee has made ECP an autonomous body. The electoral body now can make its own rules and regulations without seeking any approval from the president of the country, the minister added.
Shazia Mari, a member of the panel, said that the autonomy is limited. She said that ECP’s financial autonomy is still a distant dream. The ECP can’t make rules for allocation of desired funds, she held. She also referred that the ECP again asked the Printing Press for voters’ list printing. She lamented that the ECP was also not ready to use watermark paper for voting lists.
Senator Tahir Mashhadi of the MQM said that PTI was lingering the committee’s proceedings, while objecting on each and every issue. The PPP’s Naveed Qamar held the government responsible for wasting time. Shazia Mari warned that her party can also exercise grand sit-in option in case the government doesn’t agree what the opposition parties were demanding.