Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation on important electoral reforms in a televised speech on Tuesday. He announced that his government is set to introduce two new reforms as they have the majority in parliament to pass them. The third reform however will need support from opposition parties as this constitutional amendment will need two thirds of the majority that they do not have.
The first two reforms include launching electronic voting system and formulating a system that would allow oversees Pakistanis to be able to vote. The third reform calls for holding the Senate elections via open ballot by showing hands instead of the previous secret vote casting.
In his speech, Imran Khan recalled losing parties’ allegations of election rigging after every election and called for avoiding it in the next elections as both Azad Kashmir and Senate elections are to be held soon.
Election rigging claims are a reoccurring theme in Pakistan’s politics. He called for taking measure and introducing reforms to avoid such a situation which would prevent generating similar responses in the next elections by the losing parties. “Whoever loses, should accept their defeat,” he said. His committee, comprising of Azam Swati, Babar Awan, Shafqat Mahmood and Pervez Khattak have worked towards these electoral reforms.
The Prime Minister, who has long been an advocate of electoral reforms and has had a history with the reform of the Elections Commission, calling out rigging in previous elections.
A year after the 2013 elections when PML-N formed the government, Imran Khan himself set in motion the Azadi March, a protest march from August till December of 2017. PML-N was accused of systemic rigging in the 2013 elections.
He said today that in his campaign against election rigging after the 2013 elections, he had marched only after going to the Elections Commission, Elections Tribunal, and the Supreme Court to call for reforms in the electoral process.
After taking office, electoral reforms became one of Imran Khan’s topmost priority. In October he tabled a bill in the National Assembly called the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which was an offshoot of the Elections Act, 2017. The new bill proposes a wide set of electoral reforms and was given a three-month deadline for the imposition.
The first of his reform, electronic voting, has long been the way for many countries. However, many have tried and stopped using electronic voting, because of concerns about security and reliability. Other countries continue to use the system for more efficiency and less room for rigging. The premier today stated electronic voting as being the best and proven system.
“We are talking to the Election Commission about this and will take data from NADRA for electronic voting and bring a system to Pakistan which will allow us to conduct the best election in Pakistan so far by using modern technology,” Prime Minister Khan said today.
The second reform that will be passed as the government has the majority in parliament will cater overseas Pakistanis in the election process. “We are bringing a system for oversees Pakistan so that they are able to vote too. We have around 9 million overseas Pakistanis who are a big part of this country and should be included in our electoral process fully.”
The third reform would need a constitutional amendment in the parliament and require two-thirds of the majority for it to pass. The support of the opposition will be needed. In Pakistan, the members of the Senate, also called the upper house, are chosen by elected provincial legislators. The election process is traditionally done by secret vote casting giving room to corruption as money is given to MPs leading to people not even in the parties to join the senate.
Bringing in a reform that would seek to end the use of secret ballots in the elections for the upper chamber of parliament and bring greater transparency to the electoral exercise will prevent corruption in the senate’s electoral process.
“We expelled 20 of our provincial assembly members from the party for selling votes in the last Senate election in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s assembly,” PM Imran said. “No sitting government has brought such an amendment, but we are because we want fair elections” he continued.
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In light of the Gilgit-Baltistan elections, he said that his administration would fulfil its promise to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province and thanked the people of GB for trusting his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
In the election held on November 15th, of the 23 seats, PTI scored 9 seats with independent candidates scoring 7 and PPP scoring 3 seats. PML-N won 2 and JUI-F and MWM won 1 seat each.
Following decades old trend, the Pakistan Democratic Movement or PDM, a coalition of political parties against the elected government of Imran Khan, was quick to reject the GB election results citing election rigging by PTI, something the premier hopes to prevent from happening in future elections.