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Blame game over electoral reform delay

ISLAMABAD: Following the Election Commission of Pakistan’s urgent call to finalise legislation on the Election Law 2017, the government, the opposition and the ECP have taken to shifting the onus of delay onto one another.

The two main opposition parties the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) put blame on the government and the ECP, whereas the ECP says its hands are tied in the absence of the required legislation.

The ECP wrote to the National Assembly speaker earlier this week asking him to direct the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms “to finalise its recommendations and lay the bill before the parliament for making necessary legislation and enact the Election Act 2017 as early as possible so the ECP could start and complete its work in time according to the new law”.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who heads the committee, presented the draft Election Law 2017 on Dec 20, last year before both houses of parliament. He had announced that the committee had decided to seek feedback from all stakeholders and that a final draft would be completed within 30 days. There has been no progress on the matter since.
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Govt, opposition and ECP shift responsibility onto one another

Taking exception to the ECP’s move of writing to the speaker, the PTI’s member in the parliamentary committee, Dr Arif Alvi, lashed out at the ECP for, what he called, shifting the blame onto others while ignoring its role in the mess. He alleged that the ECP did not seem to be interested in carrying out electoral reform. He said the committee had been unable to meet for the past two months due to the ECP’s decision to boycott its proceedings.

The PTI member also alleged that the ECP had been “deliberately delaying” the process which was evident from the fact that it had not fulfilled any task assigned by the committee on time.

Dr Alvi regretted that there had been no progress on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), biometric devices for verification of voters’ identity and the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis. He said the ECP officials had earlier committed that they were ready to use the biometric verification system, but later termed it “risky” and said the data could be hacked.

He alleged that the government and the ECP were hand in glove with each other. “The delay suits the government as well,” he said, adding that his party would not allow the ECP to hold next year’s elections without enacting electoral reforms first.

Shazia Marri of the PPP agreed that the ECP had not been “pro-active”; however, she held the government responsible for the delay. She stressed that it was the government’s job to provide the necessary assistance to the ECP.

Ms Marri, who is also a member of the committee, said her party wanted to strengthen the ECP and it seemed that the commission wanted autonomy, but the government’s priorities were different.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s representative in the Senate, Tahir Mashhadi, held the PTI responsible for the delay. He said the party had been creating a nuisance over every small issue with the draft.

Interestingly, Minister of State for Capital Development and Administration Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, who is also a member of the committee, held the opposition responsible for the delay. He said in the last meeting, the opposition parties had sought time from the government to review the draft before giving their final assent. Since then, he said, they had been waiting for their response.

He said there had been no delay on the government’s part and expressed hope that the committee would finish its task in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, ECP Additional Secretary Fida Muhammad said the proposal of using EVMs and BVMs in the election, instead of ballot papers, had been incorporated in the draft election bill. However, he said, it was still in the draft stage.

He said despite the fact that there was no legal cover for the use of EVMs/BVMs, the ECP had submitted a summary to the prime minister, requesting procurement of some of the machines to test them out first.

He said the contracts for purchase of 185 EVMs and 100 BVMs had been signed and the machines would be available in June 2017.

He said they would require at least 300,000 EVMs in the general elections, the cost of which would be over Rs30 billion, including maintenance and services.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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