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ECP’s concerns over PTI’s electoral reforms bill

According to Kanwar Dilshad, a former Secretary to the Election Commission of Pakistan, before passing electoral reforms, the government should have consulted ECP first. The electoral bill that the PTI government has bulldozed through the NA is a direct subversion to an electoral and democratic system.

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The  Election Commission of Pakistan unanimously has expressed serious concerns over some clauses of the electoral reforms bill passed by the National Assembly, including the voting rights for overseas Pakistani and use of electronic voting machines, and has assessed that many proposed amendments may violate constitutional requirements.

It is astonishing that the Election Commission of Pakistan was not taken into confidence while drafting the bill which is why it has now raised objections which it feels will be detrimental to the holding of free, fair, transparent, and credible elections.

Read more: Prime Minister castigated election commission

It is further showing hypocrisy and evidence that the opposition members were part of the parliamentary committee that passed the bill. However many opposition members abstained during the proceedings which enabled the government to have the bill passed.

Concerns over electoral reforms

A delegating of opposition parties met Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and conveyed to him the opposition parties’ concerns over the government’s decision to introduce electronic voting machines in the next general elections 2023.

Opposition parties were of the view that they went to meet the Chief Election Commissioner to convey their grievances on electoral reforms which should have been debated in the Parliament and decisions should have been made keeping in mind the views of all political parties. The bill that the PTI government has bulldozed through the NA is a direct subversion to an electoral and democratic system.

Read more: In a historic move, Pakistan’s national assembly passed 21 bills in single day

The Ministry of Science and Technology will complete the development of electronic voting machines by mid of July this year and will show demonstration to the election commission of Pakistan.

The Election Commission of Pakistan will also show it to political parties of the Parliament. A report of a Spanish firm is also received by the election commission which highlights serious issues about the NADRA system. Internet voting system also requires an urgent revamp. It is learned that the Election Commission of Pakistan is studying it at the moment.

Read more: Is the current i-Voting system for overseas Pakistanis secure?

In the present circumstances, the government is very keen to introduce EVMs and Internet Voting for overseas Pakistanis. The federal government appointed Mr. Tariq Malik, who is currently serving at the United Nations Development Program, as chairman of NADRA for the second time. Mr. Tariq Malik is internationally famous and naturally, he would work on  EVMs and Internet Voting and assist ECP’s Strategic ventures, keeping in view article 2019.

ECP and opposition together for the first time

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already expressed its reservations on the sensitive issue in the Parliamentary committee and the government should let the ECP do its constitutional obligation as per article 2019 instead of finding ways to pressurize it which is negation to article 2013 2014,2018, 2019, and 2024.

The Elections Amendments Bill 2020 was passed by the National Assembly on 10th June. Major changes in the Bill included more financial autonomy to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the vacation of seats of a returned candidate if the oath is not taken within 60 days of the first sitting of the assembly, voting right for overseas Pakistanis, and use of EVMs in elections.

Read more: Voting rights to overseas Pakistanis in next general elections

It’s the first time in the election commission history since 1956 that the opposition has stood behind ECP. The opposition parties are apprehensive that the government wanted to institutionalize rigging and also curtail the election commission powers through the bills.

Election Commission’s reports on Electronic and Internet Voting were not tabled in Parliament over the last three years. Instead, the government bulldozed this bill. For EVMs and Internet Voting to be introduced in Pakistan, all political parties must agree to it.

In a democracy, any election-related legislation must be based on neutrality, impartiality, and objectivity.

Read more: Political parties: a necessity for transitional democracy in Pakistan?

Kanwar Dilshad, former Secretary to the Election Commission of Pakistan, worked in the constitutional institution for over 30 years. He is currently the chairperson for the National Democratic Foundation; the foundation’s work is to grow and strengthen democracy in Pakistan. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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