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> Government should institute Electoral Reforms at this stage, demands CGEP
National Roundtable
December 03, 2008
Hotel Serena, Islamabad


Islamabad, December 03: Members of the PILDAT’s Citizens Group on Electoral Process, alongside MNAs, representatives of various political parties, media and civil society organizations demanded of the government to institute electoral reforms at this stage so as to avoid electoral issues at a later stage. These demands were put forth at a Roundtable Discussion on Electoral Reforms organized by PILDAT.


Widely attended by MNAs from various political parties, representatives of major political parties, students, academia and the media, the roundtable discussion discussed CGEP’s proposed electoral reforms in addition to sharing regional lessons of electoral processes and reforms from countries such as India and Sri Lanka.


Welcoming the participants, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director of PILDAT briefly shared CGEP and its work. The Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP), throughout its electoral process monitoring work spanning from December 2006 to until after February 2008 elections, had proposed a set of Electoral Reforms for Pakistan. Now, CGEP members, after holding extensive discussions and analyzing regional electoral processes and reforms, got together with local stakeholders and regional expert to give a final shape to what should be the electoral reforms in Pakistan, he said.


Presenting a summary of the paper on Indian Electoral System, authored especially for PILDAT by Mr. T. S. Krishnamurthy, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Mr. Mehboob said that the Indian Election Commission too did not exercise the powers and authority vested in it until Mr. T. N. Seshan, the celebrated Chief Election Commissioner of India, took over. Much of the clout and powers of the ECI that it enjoys today weren’t comfortably accorded to it by the politicians and the governments in India as there are many political and judicial battles the government of India contested with Mr. Seshan over these powers. However, emphasized Mr. Mehboob, once the tradition of exercising authority by the ECI was established, even those CECs coming after Mr. Seshan have continued in the same tradition. He said that there are many powers such as election tribunal system and of charged expenditure that the ECP enjoys but that still appear on the electoral reforms agenda of the ECI. However, he concluded, it is the powers and authority exercised by the ECI that makes it a much more credible and powerful institution.


Mr. Kingsley Rodrigo, Chairperson, People’s Action For Free & Fair Elections (PAFREL), Sri Lanka, shared his findings and views on Electoral Systems and experiences in Sri Lanka.


Presenting the CGEP Proposed Electoral Reforms in Pakistan Mr. Shahid Hamid, Former Governor Punjab and member CGEP highlighted that key required electoral reforms in Pakistan are elections within political parties, transparency and accountability of funding during election process, neutral monitoring and supervision, pre-delimitation of constituencies and unbiased caretaker government.


With her concluding remarks, Ms. Farzana Raja, Federal Minister/ Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme said that electoral reforms are high on the agenda of the PPP government. Most of CGEP proposed reforms are already part of the PPP’s reform agenda. She appreciated PILDAT’s role in facilitating CGEP and its work and a timely discussion on electoral reform proposals. She especially thanked PILDAT for its role in bringing together diverse views and opinions towards instituting greater democratic and electoral reforms and promised to take the reforms up within her government and the Parliament.


Among the key members of CGEP who took part in the discussion included Justice (Retd.) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, Former Chief Justice of Pakistan; Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, The Jang Group of Newspapers; Justice (Retd.) Nasira Iqbal, Former Judge, Lahore High Court; Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Former Senator and Minister; Mr. Shahid Hamid, Former Governor Punjab; Mr. Tasneem Noorani, Former Federal Secretary, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director PILDAT and Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT. Mr. K. M. Dilshad, Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, was also part of the roundtable discussion in addition to national and international organizations working on democracy and electoral process in Pakistan.