Islamabad, April 12; “The Election Commission of Pakistan will incorporate the major reform proposals presented and endorsed by the major political parties including the PML, PML-N, PPPP and the MQM, to improve electoral participation of Women, Youth and Non-Muslims. ” These views were expressed by Mr. K. M. Dilshad, Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan at a PILDAT Workshop on the topic of Reforms for Improving Electoral Participation of Women, Youth and Non-Muslims. The Secretary ECP was presenting his concluding remarks at the workshop which was attended by MNAs from various political parties, senior party leadership of major parties and representatives and office bearers of various parties, civil society organisations, youth groups and the media. He said that while many improvements in the electoral process such as the computerised electoral rolls, the use of transparent ballot boxes and increase in the number of polling booths were already under implementation by the ECP, the parties in the Parliament need to bring specific legislation to bring in measures like computerised and electronic voting, etc.
The Workshop, a consultative dialogue amongst major political parties on the issue of improving electoral participation of disadvantaged communities brought together MPs from leading political parties including Mr. Abid Sher Ali, MNA (PML-N); Mr. Akram Masih Gill, MNA (PML); Dr. Donya Aziz, MNA (PML); Mr. Farooq Amjad Mir, MNA (PML); Ms. Fauzia Habib, MNA (PPPP); Ms. Fauzia Wahab, MNA (PPPP); Mr. Haroon Ihsan Paracha, MNA (PML); Mr. M. P. Bhandara, MNA (PML); Ms. Maimoona Hashmi, MNA (PML-N); Senator Nisar A. Memon (PML); Mr. Pervaiz Malik, MNA (PML); Ms. Tehmina Dastee, MNA (PML) and Ms. Tehmina Daultana, MNA (PML-N). Prominent among the participants included Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Chief Coordinator & Information Secretary of the PML-N, Ms. Farzana Malik, Central Information Secretary, PML and office bearers from the PML, PML-N, PPPP and the MQM.
Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director of PILDAT, introduced and moderated the workshop while Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT presented key reforms and recommendations on the topic of improving electoral participation of Women, Youth and Non-Muslims gathered through PILDAT’s multi-step consultation with parties, MPs, NGOs and other stakeholders through various workshops and forums over the year. These reforms were outlined in a special Discussion Paper prepared for the Workshop which was shared with participants at the Workshop.
Presenting their inputs, various MPs, including those belonging to the ruling coalition, believed that the ECP has to improve people’s faith and perception in its capacities to hold free and fair electionsSuggestions such as introducing a public funding system of political parties and candidates, a stringent code of conduct created through consultation with major parties, the use of electronic voting machines, online voting and the use of new technologies to make elections more participatory and free and fair were put forward by various parties. The youth groups suggested that not only parties’ manifestos should be made part of the curricula at the college and university levels, but the electronic media favourite with youngsters should carry political awareness and education messages to prepare the youth for leadership roles. Mr. Ahsan Iqbal suggested that the ECP should make it mandatory for political parties that when the parties file their assets, the parties should describe what specific steps the parties took during the year to improve electoral participation of Women, Youth and Non-Muslims. He said that with the advent of mobile technology, the ECP should allow citizens to send mobile phone videos, pictures and SMS messages to warn the ECP of rigging during election.
Organised by PILDAT, the Workshop was supported by the UNDP under its project of “Strengthening Electoral Processes to Ensure Greater Participation, SDEPP II.” PILDAT will issue a detailed report of the workshop, alongside the proposed reforms and suggestions and present it to the ECP and the government for their consideration.