Recently, the electoral reforms bill was passed in the National Assembly, which raised concerns for the Election Commission of Pakistan. Some of its clauses, including the voting rights of overseas Pakistanis and electronic voting machines, may violate the constitutional requirements to some extent. Such clauses have alarmed ECP, and recently the Chief Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja conducted a meeting with the commission on Tuesday to discuss their concerns.
During the meeting, the commission said that it had already sent the response to the relevant parliamentary committee, but it still wasn’t included in the bill. All the comments and concerns of the commission have been recorded and taken under consideration by ECP. The document compares the original clauses in the Election Act 2017 with the changes presented by the government in the Elections (Amendment) Act 2020. The National Assembly has passed the bill for these changed clauses already, but it still has to be passed by the Senate for it to become a proper law.
ECP’s Biggest Concern Regarding The Electoral Reforms Bill
One of the biggest fears for ECP is that the proposed amendments will shift its constitutional power to NADRA. NADRA, on the other hand, isn’t an independent body, and it’s a part of the federal government, so technically, ECP’s power will be diluted if the Senate passes the bill.
ECP has presented an entire document of internal assessments, and some of their primary concerns are;
Dilution of their power
Mismanagement of elections
The negative impact on the existing constitutional structure
As per the document, ECP rejects 28 of the clauses out of the 62 proposed amendments. The committee had cleared and passed the bill, including some of the opposition members who weren’t present when the bill was approved in the first place. It has also been passed by the ECP, but it can still be challenged in the court of law if the rejection makes sense and if the clauses really are against the existing constitutional requirements.
Here are some essential and thoughtful concerns of the ECP regarding the electoral reforms bill;
As per ECP, overseas Pakistanis cannot have any voting rights until the parliament does the required legislation regarding serious aspects like giving extra seats in the assembly or what exactly will be their voting procedure.
ECP also states that the use of electronic voting machines doesn’t make any sense until it’s guaranteed that these machines will conduct free and fair elections. From the accuracy of these machines to the fact that whether or not they can perform under hot weather conditions or during load shedding, everything has to be considered before using them for elections.
The decision has yet to be made, but all ECP’s concerns are pretty valid for now. The elections have to be fair, and a proper system must be developed that fulfills the constitutional requirements. It’s expected that the court of law will consider ECP’s concerns and take action accordingly.