Snubbed by allies

Published November 11, 2021

THESE past few weeks have been quite rough for the government. But no instance has been as embarrassing as the refusal of its allies — the PML-Q, MQM and GDA — to back the controversial electoral reforms bills, forcing the government to postpone a joint sitting of parliament.

The session had been convened for today to obtain parliamentary endorsement for using EVMs and giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote online. The announcement calling off the sitting came an hour or so after the prime minister’s address to PTI lawmakers and allies, directing them to ensure their presence at the now postponed session in a display of the ‘spirit of jihad’ to push through the proposed changes to the election laws.

Taking to Twitter, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the electoral reforms were connected to the country’s future. “We are trying in good faith to build a consensus on these reforms. In this regard, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has once again been asked to contact the opposition so that a joint bill can be introduced. This is precisely the reason for postponing the joint session of parliament.”

He was hopeful that the opposition would seriously consider important electoral reforms for the sake of the country’s future. Yet, he made it clear that the government didn’t intend to back out of its plans if an agreement was not reached with the opposition. That shows the government intends to use the time between now and the next joint sitting to convince its allies in the coalition to support its insistence on the use of EVMs and internet voting for non-resident Pakistanis in order to muster the numbers required to pass the bills.

Read: Reconsidering electronic voting

The possibility of the government engaging with the opposition parties, with whom the prime minister has been on the warpath since his ascent to power, in a meaningful manner to allay their concerns about the proposed reforms and accommodating their suggestions to ensure ‘free and fair’ elections in the country appears remote. The PM has rightly stated that democracy begins with free and fair elections. But it’s also a fact that no democracy can survive without a vibrant opposition, which his government is bent on decimating. It is good to see the government engaging in legislative activity, but bulldozing legislation without thorough debate and input from the opposition defeats parliament’s raison d’être. This is especially true for legislation on important issues like electoral reforms.

Both the opposition and ECP, which were severely criticised by Mr Khan in his address before the postponement of the joint sitting, have valid objections to the introduction of EVMs and internet voting. The snub delivered by its allies to the PTI on the bills vindicates the opposition’s stance. The government must address all objections. Electoral reforms without participation from the opposition and other stakeholders will not serve democracy.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Mianwali raid
Updated 02 Feb, 2023

Mianwali raid

The military needs to share intelligence with civilian agencies to neutralise the militant menace nationwide.
Corruption unlimited
02 Feb, 2023

Corruption unlimited

PAKISTAN’S consistent slide on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index over the last several...
Women police officers
02 Feb, 2023

Women police officers

IN a heartening development, a second female police officer has been appointed as DPO in Attock, weeks after the...
Road to perdition
Updated 01 Feb, 2023

Road to perdition

This is also the time of reckoning for those who sowed the seeds of a disastrous policy against militants.
Transport tragedies
01 Feb, 2023

Transport tragedies

TWO tragedies over the weekend illustrate the weak protocols governing the safety of transport in Pakistan. In fact,...
Disqualifying Jam Awais
01 Feb, 2023

Disqualifying Jam Awais

IT appears that there may be some kind of small punishment after all for PPP lawmaker Jam Awais, who was pardoned ...