ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has warned that time is running out for the enactment of electoral reforms if political parties want the next general elections to be held under the proposed laws.
Expressing concern over the delay in the promulgation of the Election Laws 2017, the ECP has written to the National Assembly speaker — through the NA secretary — 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”.
The draft Election Law 2017 was presented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar — who heads the parliamentary committee — in an interim report on Dec 20 last year before both houses of parliament.
While presenting the report, the minister said that the committee had decided to seek feedback from all stakeholders, including parliamentarians, adding that a final draft would be completed within 30 days once all recommendations had been incorporated.
Says passage of Election Law 2017 must be expedited if next polls are to be held under new law
The ECP’s letter, however, maintains that under Section 14 of the draft Election Law 2017, the ECP is required to “prepare a comprehensive action plan specifying all legal and administrative measures that have been taken or are required to be taken” at least six months before the general elections are due to be held.
“Keeping in view the importance and magnitude of work, it is apprehended that in case of delayed enactment of new election act by the parliament, timely completion of the aforesaid activities could become a huge challenge for the ECP, impacting quality of elections,” the commission warned, breaking down the various tasks it is required to undertake before the expiry of the terms of the national and provincial assemblies.
The letter said that the 2018 elections were looming and that the commission had to undertake a number of important tasks well before the assemblies’ terms expired.
These tasks included “delimitation/re-description of constituencies; revision of electoral rolls; appointment and training of DROs, ROs, AROs, polling staff; preparation of list of polling stations and list of polling personnel; enlistment of political parties; finalisation of codes of conduct for political parties, security/polling personnel, media etc; allocation of symbols; printing of ballot papers and engagement of printing presses; establishment of the Result Management System; arrangements for election observers; appointment of appellate and election tribunals and security measures.”
The letter also highlights ECP’s efforts to assist the electoral reforms committee and improvements in the draft law.
“The ECP has made all out efforts to assist the parliamentary committee(s) by providing draft legislative proposals, comparative statements of the existing and proposed legislation, modalities for introduction of electoral technology and international best practices in respect of unified election laws,” it says.
The special parliamentary committee was constituted by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on July 25, 2014 and tasked with “mak[ing] recommendations to hold free, fair and transparent elections”. The committee was required to complete its job by October 23, 2014.
Initially, the committee could not hold meetings on a regular basis due to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) sit-in outside parliament. PTI members had initially boycotted the committee’s proceedings, but joined it in January 2015 after the party ended its boycott.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2017