ISLAMABAD: The government tabled on Tuesday a draft bill on electoral reforms in the National Assembly which gives complete administrative and financial powers to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), increases the election expenses limits for both National Assembly and provincial assemblies’ seats by 150 per cent and makes it mandatory for registration of any political party to have at least 1,000 members.
The Election Bill 2017 was laid down by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Election Reforms which prepared the document in two years’ consultative process for which its sub-committee, headed by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, met for 70 times.
The 33-member parliamentary committee was formed by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s instructions for electoral reforms amid Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s 2014 sit-in against PML-N’s alleged rigging in 2013 general elections.
The committee which consolidated nine different laws and ordinances regarding electoral process also gave its recommendations to the lower house for the 27th constitution amendment bill.
Presenting the draft bill in the house, the chairman of the committee asked authorities concerned for its publication in national dailies besides placing it on the website of the National Assembly so that everyone could go through the 149-page draft bill.
He also called upon all concerned, including parliamentary parties, ECP, civil society, lawyers’ organisations and general public to give their suggestions about the document within 30 days so that it could be reviewed and improved in the light of their suggestions.
The 22nd Constitution Amendment that changed the eligibility criteria of members of the ECP in May this year was made in the light of recommendations of the same committee.
Earlier, Law Minister Hamid briefed journalists about the draft bill and said in order to check mushroom growth of political parties which emerged ‘overnight’, it had been proposed that any party seeking registration must have at least 1,000 members. Such parties would have to deposit Rs100,000 in security.
It has been proposed to enhance the election expense limit for the national and provincial assemblies to Rs4 million and Rs2m from Rs1.5m and Rs1, respectively. The limit for Senate election will remain unchanged at Rs1.5m.
Likewise, he said, the nomination fee had been proposed to be enhanced to Rs30,000 for National Assembly candidates and Rs20,000 for candidates of provincial assemblies and Senate.
The administrative and financial powers of the ECP have been strengthened in the draft bill to issue specific instructions which will be treated as orders of a high court. All of the ECP’s expenditures would be borne by the federal government like those of the Supreme Court.
The ECP would also be given complete control over the electoral staff from other departments and in case of misconduct it would be able to act against them.
Published in Dawn December 21st, 2016