Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday confirmed backdoor talks between the government and opposition after contact between Opposition Leader in Senate Yousuf Raza Gilani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.
Fawad Chaudhry while confirming the backdoor talks said that they had approached key opposition leaders in a bid to include them in the consultative process. “The prime minister has asked the speaker to approach the opposition,” he said adding that they had made the approach towards them and now the masses would decide on it.
Earlier, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser reached out to Yousuf Raza Gilani as two of them discussed improving the state of affairs within the Parliament and electoral reforms. “It is the joint responsibility of all to maintain the sanctity and respect of the Parliament,” he said adding that they had to face the ongoing challenges beyond their party politics.
The National Assembly speaker said that electoral reforms were need of the hour and asked the opposition leaders to convey the names of their party leaders to be represented in the parliamentary body mulling over these reforms.
Responding to it, Yousuf Raza Gilani assured that they would extend their cooperation for running the assembly affairs in a proper manner. “Naveed Qamar has been appointed focal person in this regard by Bilawal Bhutto,” he said adding that PPP would play its positive role for the electoral reforms as it is a much-needed initiative.
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.