THE electoral reforms process is off to a bad start. After weeks of wrangling with the opposition, the government has proceeded to issue a presidential ordinance authorising the Election Commission of Pakistan to go ahead with the procurement of electronic voting machines. The ordinance also authorised the ECP to enable overseas Pakistanis to vote in the next elections while remaining in their country of residence.

According to a report, the information minister said the government had issued the ordinance to provide the ECP enough time to implement both these reforms before the next general elections. He also said that the government had decided to proceed with these reforms because the opposition was not interested. He argued that once the ordinance lapses, the government would be in a position to have this bill passed through parliament.

While there is no arguing that electoral reforms are crucial to make sure that the next elections are accepted as free and fair, the government is approaching the issue in the wrong way. The whole point of these reforms is to ensure that all major political stakeholders are on board, and that there is a consensus on them so that no one can object to the results of the elections. It is rather strange, and unfortunate, that the government decided to proclaim the ordinance just a few days after the speaker of the National Assembly had constituted a committee to discuss and debate these reforms. By making the process controversial and politically partisan for no substantive reason, the government is ensuring that the electoral process becomes even more divisive than it already is.

Read: Electronic voting is no silver bullet

There is a long list of proposed reforms and the two included in the ordinance are part of this list. All the items require rigorous debate. The ECP has itself expressed severe reservations on the electronic voting machines, as have the opposition parties. These reservations need to be deliberated upon instead of being brushed aside by the government. It is never too late to be sensible. The PTI government should abandon this adversarial approach to electoral reform and utilise the platform of parliament to debate each and every proposed item on the list. The mistake of issuing this ordinance can be rectified by letting it lapse. In the meantime, the opposition too should let go of its obduracy and sit down with the government to build a consensus on these reforms.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

Opinion

Story of the last tamarind leaf
Updated 22 Jun 2021

Story of the last tamarind leaf

These journalists speak for all the troubled features of India’s democracy that Mr Modi didn’t tell the G7 about.
Understanding abuse
Updated 22 Jun 2021

Understanding abuse

Condemnations have been rare while there is no debate on the prevalence of such abuse beyond the Mufti Azizur Rehman case.
The roots of hate
Updated 21 Jun 2021

The roots of hate

The reference to being ‘out-populated’ is a popular theme in modern neo-Nazi and white supremacist thought.

Editorial

Describing OBL
22 Jun 2021

Describing OBL

FM Qureshi’s non-committal reply to question about Osama being a terrorist or a martyr has sent the wrong message to the world.
22 Jun 2021

A neglected sector

THE PTI legislators joined forces with opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly the other day to take their own...
22 Jun 2021

Air safari

THE resumption of PIA’s air safari flights to Skardu will hopefully attract international and domestic tourists,...
Poll consensus
Updated 21 Jun 2021

Poll consensus

If the govt is reluctant to take part in an APC on poll reforms, then it must ensure that parliament can be used for this purpose.
21 Jun 2021

Global displacement

THE number of globally displaced persons shared by the UN’s refugee agency in a report released on Friday is...
21 Jun 2021

KP budget

THE KP budget 2021-22 is a sort of please-all document that hands out something to almost everyone in the hope of...