October 10; Mr. Zahid Hamid, MNA and Federal Minister on a Science and Technology, has said that a Parliamentary committee on Electoral Reforms is to be constituted soon. Parliament will provide the required leadership to institute electoral reforms that had either not been put in place before General Election 2013 or the need for which has been felt after the General Election.
He was addressing the Inter-Provincial Roundtable on Required Electoral Reforms in Pakistan organised by PILDAT.
Speaking at the Roundtable, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT, expressed concern on delay in verdict by the Election Tribunals within the legally-mandated period to decide petitions in 4 months. He said that compared to the previous elections where Election Tribunals only worked part-time, after May 2013 General Election, an increased number of dedicated election tribunals have been put in place to take care of electoral complaints. 14 Election Tribunals have been formed on June 3 through a notification by the ECP. The tribunals are legally mandated to decide the petitions within 4 months (The ROPA Act, 1976, Section 67(IA)). However, their stipulated period of 4 months has ended on October 3 and these have been unable to complete their work in 4 months.
Ms. Anusha Rahman Khan, MNA and Minister of State for Information Technology, also supported the demand for Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms. She believed that political parties must come together to reform the process and address shortcomings instead of discrediting the Election.
Mr. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, MNA, Deputy Parliamentary Leader PTI, also believed Parliament needs to play its role in instituting required electoral reforms urgently.
Speaking at the Roundtable, Mr. Faisal Karim Kundi, former MNA and Deputy Speaker National Assembly also pointed out various irregularities in management of General and by-Election in D.I.Khan division. He share details of alleged Government influence in election and asked that the authorities must look into those.
PILDAT’s objective behind the roundtable was to bring together selected Members of the National Assembly and 4 Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan to share their views and experiences on the conduct of General Election 2013 and what, in their view, are the required electoral reforms for the future Elections in Pakistan.
Outlining various proposals relating to improving Election Day management, legislators highlighted the need for greater use of technology, employing the use of Electronic voting Machines, appointment of non-partisan and honest polling staff, investment in training of polling staff and a greater control on them by the ECP.
Political Parties represented at the Roundtable endorsed PILDAT’s proposal of removing the qualification of Judiciary for CEC and other members of the ECP and suggested that any reputable citizen with administrative experience and integrity can and should be considered for appointment to the ECP. All legislators said that they did not witness any constituency monitors.
Outlining PILDAT proposals for Electoral Reforms, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT, also said that continuing poor public trust in Electoral Process will discredit Democracy and fresh experiences of challenges in electoral process must lead to comprehensive electoral reforms now. He asked that legislators should raise required reforms in Parliament & agitate these in Political Parties. Mr. Mehboob said that Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of CEC even though has been formed but has not yet even met to elect its Chair. He also said that Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms must be urgently re-activated.
Members of the National Assembly of Pakistan who participated in the Roundtable included Mr. Ali Muhammad Khan (NA-10-Mardan-II, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI), Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub (NA-34-Lower Dir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, JI), Mr. Pervaiz Malik (NA-123 Lahore-VI, Punjab, PML-N), Mr. Muhammad Aijaz Ahmed Chaudhary (NA-108 M.B.Din-I, Punjab, PML-N), Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari (NA-173 D. G. Khan-III, Punjab, PML-N), Mr. Ghaus Bux Khan Maher (NA-203-SHIKARPUR-CUM-SUKKUR (OLD SHIKARPUR-II), Sindh, PML-F), Mr. S.A Iqbal Qadri (NA-241-Karachi-III, Sindh, MQM) and Ms. Shaista Pervez (PML-N, Punjab).
Members of Provincial Assemblies who were present in the Roundtable included Syed Muhammad Raza (PB-2, Balochistan, MWM), Engineer Qamar-ul-Islam Raja (PP-5 Rawalpindi-V, Punjab, PML-N), Mr. Arif Abbasi (PP-13 Rawalpindi-XIII, Punjab, PTI), Qazi Adnan Fareed (PP-268, Punjab, PML-N), Dr. Najma Afzal Khan (W-320, Punjab, PML-N), Ms. Raheela Anwar (W-357, Punjab, PTI), Ms. Faiza Ahmad Malik (W-362, Punjab, PPPP), Mr. Fayaz Ali Butt (PS-77, Sindh, PPPP), Mr. Faisal Ali Sabzwari (PS-126 , Sindh, MQM), Ms. Mahtab Akbar Rashdi (RSW-156, Sindh, PML-F) and Mr. Israr Ullah Gandapur, MPA (PK-67, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI), Provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, KP.
Members of Citizens Group on Electoral Reforms joining the Roundtable included Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, Former Governor Sindh, Mr. Shahid Hamid, Former Governor Punjab and Minister of Defence, Dr. Parvez Hassan, Senior Advocate Supreme Court, Justice (Retd.) Nasira Iqbal, Former Judge, Lahore High Court, Mr. Javed Jabbar, Former Federal Minister, Mr. Muhammad Abbas Khan, Former IG Police, Mr. Arif Nizami, Former Federal Minister for Information, Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi, Political and Defence Anayst, Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Senior Journalist/Analyst, Mr. Babar Sattar, Advocate Supreme Court, Justice (Retd.) Saeed uz Zaman Siddique, Former Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Mujib ur Rehman Shami, Editor in Chief Daily Pakistan, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT and Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT.
A PILDAT Report on State of Electoral Reforms was also shared at the Roundtable.
The Roundtable was organised by PILDAT under the project Supporting Monitoring of Democracy, Electoral Reforms and Development of Youth in Pakistan which is supported by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Government of Denmark.