National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaisar on Monday invited the Opposition for talks on electoral reforms. Speaker Qaisar made the offer in a telephonic conversation with Opposition Leader in the Senate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. He had contacted the PPP leader to congratulate him on being elected as the opposition leader in the upper house of Parliament.
The present government intends to introduce some key electoral reforms in order to make the process transparent and fair. However, it has so far not been able to generate required consensus to take the opposition parties on board.
During talks, the NA Speaker said that all the political parties have to play their due role for the electoral reforms. Asad Qaisar told Gilani that a parliamentary committee for the electoral reforms was also being constituted and stressed upon the role of democratic forces for the supremacy of the Parliament.
Political analysts believe that the Opposition and the government are unlikely to make any progress because of some pertinent reasons. First, the government does not seem to be interested to compromise on the ongoing accountability derive. Second, main opposition parties i.e. PML-N and PPP want to elude the NAB. Third, PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) is demanding the removal of the incumbent government. Hence, argue analysts, this will be no easy task for the government to introduce electoral reforms.
No transparent election unless effective reforms adopted, govt tells Opposition
Earlier, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said democracy derived strength from free, fair and transparent elections and the opposition’s stance against open ballot in Senate elections was illogical and beyond comprehension.
Senator Shibli Faraz said instead of supporting the government’s efforts to introduce electoral reforms, the opposition was creating hurdles by opposing the holding of the Senate elections through the open ballot. “This was tantamount to encouraging horse-trading and corruption during the election process,” he maintained.
Punjab Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan has also said that electoral reforms were part of the PTI’s manifesto and Prime Minister Imran Khan will not go back on any action in this regard.
The provincial senior minister said that it was unfortunate not to support the government just because of political opposition. He asked the opposition parties not to miss this opportunity as it would improve the electoral system. If the election process in the country is strong, no one will blame anyone for rigging.
Reforms without consultation?
Recently, speaking at a news conference, Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood and Minister for Narcotics Control Azam Swati had announced a number of proposed changes to the Constitution and laws to reform the electoral process with the main suggestion of holding the Senate elections through an open vote instead of the current method of secret balloting.
According to them, the proposals had already been placed before the federal cabinet for approval after which these would be presented before parliament in the form of bills.
The two ministers were members of a special parliamentary committee constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser in October 2018 on the opposition’s demand to probe charges of rigging in the elections held in July that year. The committee, however, failed to complete its task for a number of reasons, forcing the opposition parties to finally announce its boycott of the committee in June last year. The committee and a couple of sub-committees, however, continued to function and prepared recommendations to introduce electoral reforms.
The ministers had stated that the efforts would be made for evolving a broad-based consensus among all political parties on electoral reforms.
On the other hand, PPP vice president and parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman told daily Dawn that they had only heard about these proposed “reforms” through the media.
“There has been no consultation or discussion about Senate or general electoral reforms that we have all done extensive work on together,” she said, adding that “none of us have seen any draft of the proposal, nor has there been any kind of discussion at the parliamentary level where we all just met”.
She said it was odd that the party whose prime minister never came to the Senate, as they preferred rule by presidential ordinances, now suddenly wanted reforms in how the Senate was elected.