ISLAMABAD: To ensure fairness and transparency in elections, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Monday unveiled an electoral reforms agenda envisaging a series of amendments to the Constitution and election laws.
The proposed amendments include introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and right to franchise to overseas Pakistanis and also permission to contest elections as well as identifiable ballot for Senate elections.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhary Fawad Hussain and Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan shared details of the reforms agenda at a news conference, here on Monday.
Awan said the reforms agenda envisages amendments to the Constitution and the Election Act 2017. He said reforms agenda would be put forth before the stakeholders, including the civil society, media and bar councils and associations for their inputs.
Under the reforms package, the PM’s aide said Section 103 was being amended to allow the use of EVMs and the system would be exhibited before relevant stakeholders, adding Section 94 would be amended to give the right of franchise to overseas Pakistanis.
Awan stressed there should also be democracy within political parties. Therefore, he said, it had been decided to bring an amendment to Section 202 under which the political parties having representation of 10,000 members would be able to get themselves registered.
According to him, a new Section of 213A was being introduced making it compulsory to the political parties to hold their annual conventions. An amendment in Section 15 would provide an opportunity to the candidates to challenge polling staff. The PM’s adviser said it was also being proposed that the electoral rolls be prepared on the basis of registration data available with the Nadra. He said the government also wanted the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of registered voters.
Awan said two constitutional amendments would be brought with the aim to ensure open ballot in the Senate and allow the overseas Pakistanis to contest the elections. He said the reforms agenda also envisaged the proposal of further empowering the Election Commission of Pakistan. Awan said there was nothing in the amendments that were in favour or against any political party.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Hussain said the government wanted to get the reforms agenda passed from the parliament through consensus. He said if the opposition parties were not ready for the reforms it would impede the process of political and democratic development.
He said it was the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan that the political parties sit together to carry out electoral reforms. He said the reforms would enhance the confidence of the people, political parties and intelligentsia on the election process. He defended the use of electronic voting machines in the election, saying it would ensure early results.
The minister reiterated the government’s offer to opposition parties to sit for electoral reforms, saying those opposing EVMs had never witnessed their working. He said they wanted to bring EVMs so that the results were not delayed for 12 or more hours. “We want the results to be received 20 minutes after the election process,” he added.
He said even the Prime Minister himself had asked the opposition to sit for electoral reforms after the latter objected as to why they were not invited for the talks directly by Khan.
PM’s adviser Awan said 49 changes were being made in the Election Act 2017 by introducing or abrogating sections and making amendments to the existing sections. He said the Elections (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the National Assembly on October 16, 2020 and opposition did not attend the session on the day.
He said the Speaker had constituted a special committee for consideration on the new proposed laws but opposition was not ready to discuss them. He said Parliament was the only forum to discuss and ensure improvement in laws but opposition unfortunately had not taken serious its various bodies, including standing committees, House Business Advisory Committee and special committee constituted by the Speaker.
He further said two constitutional amendments would be introduced in the Parliament aiming to conduct Senate elections through identifiable voting and allow overseas Pakistanis to contest elections. He said Section 15 of the Elections Act, 2017 was also being amended which was related to complaints against polling staff. That new amendment would enable the contesting candidates to challenge the appointment of polling staff within 15 days, he added.
Awan said an elected member of federal or provincial legislatures would have to take oath within 60 days after his/her election as per suggested amendment, otherwise, the seat would be declared vacant. He said more financial autonomy was also suggested for the Election Commission of Pakistan.
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