Consultation by HRCP Calls For Implementing Electoral Laws

Consultation by HRCP Calls For Implementing Electoral Laws

LAHORE: Participants in a consultation unanimously called for implementation of electoral laws to help build legitimacy of elected governments and trust of the voters in the election process.

It was sixth in a series of consultations held by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said jurist and analyst Asad Jamal who moderated the event.

He said recommendations framed in the light of previous-year consultations were submitted to the parliamentary committee in September 2014 as well as the Election Commission.

The present, and further, consultation(s), he said, was aimed at making the wheel roll and see what needed for making the 2018 general election a credible exercise acceptable to all stakeholders.

In the light of this consultation, the recommendations would be updated, he added.

PTI MNA Arif Alvi, who is member of a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, threw light on issues, constraints and the way forward found out by the panel, while known jurist Salman Raja spoke on recent controversies and what needs to be done to build credibility for electoral process leading to general election 2018.

Referring to poor implementation of laws by the ECP, Mr Alvi said what message the election authority gave for Lodhran by-polls and local government contest when it ignored violations of the code of conduct, particularly use of money, in NA-122 by-polls.

He also pointed out inefficiencies in the electoral system, change of polling scheme at the eleventh hour, poor measures to block pre-poll rigging, problems in introducing electronic and biometric voting and the suggestions made by the parliamentary panel in this respect.

About the voting right for overseas Pakistanis, he said, the UNDP was preparing a proposal about it as postal and electronic balloting both contained difficulties and the best option seemed to be phone voting – through an android application.

On increasing direct representation of women in parliament, it was suggested that there should be one women representative against six seats of an elected house with the representative being from the area of the six seats.

This, Alvi asserted, would discourage giving away tickets to women from the affluent families.

He said the introduction of third address of a voter by the ECP – as two are already contained in one’s CNIC, permanent and present – created problems.

Jurist Salman Raja believed that electronic voting would create more problems than it would resolve and warned that introduction of the system in haste could devastate the 2018 election.

Instead he stressed on making filling of the ECP forms, particularly form 15 and 16, easier, translating them into Urdu keeping in view the literacy level of the election staff.

The jurist, who had been representing a party in the recent election tribunals, pointed out that the election staff would send their children and/or subordinates to join the trainings conducted by the ECP thus nullifying the benefits of such trainings and resultant irregularities in the conduct of elections and compiling of results.

He also talked of the poor quality cloth used as bags for storing ballots and other election record, the “18th century” sealing procedure, the problems created by manual entry of CNIC numbers by the election staff, limitations of magnetic ink, a packing invoice that lacked legal force, lack of awareness among the election staff about challenged and tendered votes, etc.

Farooq Tariq of the Awami Workers Party and Norren of the PPP spoke against overuse of money in the election process denying the have-nots to run for political offices.

Tahir Mehdi of the Lok Sujag was critical of the Musharraf-era amendment in the election laws allowing independent winners to join any party within three days of the notification of the results by the ECP.

He also called for incentivising women participation in the election process and eliminating reserved seats for minorities.

Concluding the consultation, rights activist Hussain Naqi said the election campaign should be state sponsored, e-registering the party violating the law of campaign financing, providing a level playing-field for minorities, women and the have-nots.

He also suggested holding national and provincial assembly polls on separate days, establishing polling stations at walking distances so that there is no need to provide transport to voters, banning registration of votes at two places, and training of polling agents both by the parties as well as the election authority.

Mr Jamal announced that the consultations would be carried forward in the 2016 also and may be sent to provincial headquarters to seek as many suggestions as possible.

He said the HRCP would also welcome written suggestions by all and sundry.


This news was previously published in DAWN and it is being republished here with permission.