KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Monday said that there would be no benefit of electoral reforms and use of technology if the role of the powerful establishment continued to exist in the polling system as it would make every election controversial.

The PPP came up with this thought on a fresh direct offer from Prime Minister Imran Khan to opposition to discuss electoral reforms, ruling out any possibility of the required results from such an exercise if the establishment did not agree to keep itself at distance from elections in the country.

At the same time the PPP also sounded cautious over the offer from the PM accusing him of being part of rigging in the 2018 general elections.

“Legislation [in electoral system] is obviously needed and similarly transitional reforms are also required,” PPP chairman Bilwal Bhutto-Zardari told a press conference at Bilawal House.

PML-N criticised for seeking army’s intervention in NA-249 by-poll affair

Responding to a question about the PM’s offer to the opposition, he said: “But the most important aspect, rather I should say fundamental aspect, of this whole debate is the role of establishment in elections. If the role of establishment in elections remains intact, then whatever legislation you do, the elections will remain controversial”.

He further said: “It would only help if we can keep establishment away from the electoral process and keep their role apolitical. There is the need to develop a national consensus on this subject.”

The PM had recently invited the opposition directly to “sit together” with the government and discuss the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) to “reclaim the credibility” of elections, but the opposition parties took no time in rejecting the offer, saying the idea was not viable for the country. The opposition took it as a “new plot to rig elections”.

The PPP chairman referred to the deployment of army troops in the 2018 general elections that made the role of the institutions controversial because of serious reservations expressed by political parties on the results and transparency of the whole process.

PML-N criticised for showing ‘immaturity’

In the same breath, the PPP chairman lashed out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for showing “immaturity” and changing its ideological stance for political gains.

“I suggest the PML-N should approach the Election Commission for their grievances [regarding NA-249 by-poll],” he said. “They should not appeal to the army to intervene. I wonder how they can ask the army to take control of ballot boxes. Such demands only make the army controversial.”

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the PML-N demand also raised the question over its narrative and it should decide whether it had to toe its narrative on the basis of ideology or short-term political gains.

He also criticised the role the PML-N in Punjab and accused the former ruling party of “supporting Buzdar government” which, he said, was the most “vulnerable and incompetent” government in the history of Punjab, by not bringing the no-trust vote against him.

“We are justified to feel that they [PML-N and PTI] have a deal. And it’s very unfortunate if they [PML-N] are doing this for short-term political gains,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

600,000 workers to get Mazdoor Card

Earlier, the PPP chairman came up with details of the recently launched Benazir Mazdoor Card and said the Sindh government was targeting all the 600,000 registered workers across the province to benefit from this social security programme in the first phase.

He congratulated the provincial government for launching the Benazir Mazdoor Card and directed the chief minister to enhance its benefits.

“This Mazdoor Card is in fact a way forward towards a universal social security concept, which is part of the PPP manifesto. The PPP government is committed to reach each and every labourer in the province. This programme would also cover self-employed workers and industrial labourers,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2021

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