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Political parties agree to expedite electoral reforms

October 17, 2012


Leader of the House in the Senate and Convener Special Committee on Election Issues, Jahangir Badar, presides over a public hearing session at a local hotel in Islamabad on Wednesday. – Photo by INP

ISLAMABAD: Major political parties represented in the Senate of Pakistan have agreed to expedite the process of key electoral reforms needed before general elections including ensuring full participation of women as voters as well as candidates.

Special Committee of the Senate on Electoral Issues at a public hearing held in here on Wednesday reiterated its commitment to the greater role of parliament for electoral reforms and said that the agenda of reforms will be carried forward in consultation and collaboration with political parties, civil society, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other stakeholders, said a press release.

The public hearing was chaired by its Convener and Leader of the House, Senator Jahangir Badar.

Other members of the committee are Opposition Leader Senator Ishaq Dar, Syed Muzafar Ali Shah, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hassani, Syeda Sughra Imam, Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Kamil Ali Agha, Muhammad Zahid Khan and Islamud din Shaikh also attended the public hearing.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, MNA Bushra Gohar, MNA Abdul Kadir Khanzada also participated.

It was first time in the history of parliament that a Senate committee held a public hearing on electoral issues.

Senator Jahangir Badar in his opening remarks said that the public hearing is the landmark initiative by the senate committee as it has never happened before in the history of the parliament that a senate committee has held public hearing on the electoral issues.

The committee, he said, intends to put forward recommendations for the Election Commission of Pakistan, NADRA and other institutions so that the administrative measures could be taken in advance for the next general elections.

He also noted that 17th October was declared National Voters' Day and this public hearing was an acknowledgment that the Senate of Pakistan recognises the importance of voters and discussing key reforms to safeguard their rights.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and also a member of the committee, Senator Ishaq Dar was of the opinion that his party will work together with the treasury benches to reach to the consensus for key reforms.

He said “current parliament should be given credit for strengthening the Election Commission of Pakistan through constitutional measures and no one can derail or undo those strengths of the ECP.”

He said it was now collective responsibility of all stakeholders that the ECP delivers free and fair elections in Pakistan.

He emphasized tha the Senate Committee will take up some key electoral reforms issues pertaining to voters list, campaign financing, code of conduct and women's participation. Senator Dar said “we fully support special measures for allocating quota of women on winnable general seats, ensuring that            women are able to register as well as vote.”

More than 20 Pakistani and international organisations representing various sections of civil society and political parties presented their recommendations related to the key reforms before the committee.

The presenters urged the parliament to play its role so the much needed agenda of immediately required reforms could be carried forward. Ensuring full participation of women as voters as well as candidates was on top of the list of reforms among most of the participants.

Rationalization of provisions related to political finances, backing up the code of conduct with law and provision for parties for providing transportation to their voters were also among the key areas of reforms discussed by the civil society representatives.

The civil society was unanimous in its call for making the electoral rolls effort free, registration of those who are not included in the list specially women and making it accessible to the public for changes and corrections.

They also demanded transparent management of the electoral process by the ECP, an effective system of election dispute resolution and greater public awareness aimed at increasing voter turnout and trust of people into the democracy.