The result of the 2013 general election set the phase for an amazing transition in Pakistan’s democratic process-remarkable voter turnout particularly among ladies and youth. While past times of open deliberation concentrated on basic issues of changes to chose government, the present discourse is currently overwhelmingly centred around the consolidation of democratic process through introducing reforms in the system. Citizens and political parties are keen on fortifying the path by which representatives are chosen.
Much ink has been spilt and various TV hours have been given to the issue of electoral reforms. The formation of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral changes (PCER) is the step in the right direction. However, the pace of the electoral reforms in quite slow. In April this year (2017), ECP wrote to the Speaker National Assembly drawing his attention towards the fact that time for electoral reforms is slipping out of hand and if political parties want the next elections to be contested under reformed law, then relevant Act must be passed at the earliest. In the wake of looming next general elections, the process of electoral reforms must include the following suggestions.
Appointment of CEC and members of ECP:
The significance of the appointment and of the CEC and members of the ECP can’t be downplayed for they play one of the major roles in electoral process. It is a territory where changes could for sure prove to be fruitful.
The difficulties faced by the ECP must not be underestimated. The ECP oversees one of the world’s biggest single-day electoral processes, a significant assignment made more imposing by Pakistan’s precarious security environment, poor development and infrastructure issues.
No method for appointment of CEC and members of the Election Commission can truly be regarded as the best model in the world; however there are a couple of best practices that have risen as sensible cases from around the globe. Under the Constitution of Pakistan, the CEC must be a man who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court or is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court and is fit the appointment as Judge of the Supreme Court while the Members of the ECP should each be a retired High Court Judge from their respective province. This model of selecting retired judges has few parallels globally. A few nations in Latin America and the Middle East select just judges however few restrict them to those effectively resigned. More typical however, is the arrangement of prominent figures known for political neutrality with expertise in fields, for example, law, public administration, political science and the media. This approach is utilized as a part of various nations including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India and Indonesia.
This is because that conducting the general election is to a great extent an administrative assignment. There are a plenty of task that should be fastidiously looked into, planned, tried and executed. Take for example, the task of selecting building as polling stations all through the nation to enable the electorate to advantageously cast their votes. The 2013 general election saw the ECP set up 69,801 polling stations. Hence, together with the Returning Officers, the ECP is required to look at the appropriateness of more than 69,000 structures over the length and broadness of the nation. This activity, as most others in the decision procedure, requires an incredible measure of organization, planning, in depth research and collaboration with government divisions which are all, but administrative qualities.
Truly, there are likewise legal functions did by the CEC and Members of the ECP. Be that as it may, the legal part is irrefutably restricted. Thus, it would be better, while appointing CEC and members of ECP, suitable candidates from administrative fields may also be considered.
Count the quantity of individuals who voted:
This straightforward integrity check costs nothing and can hinder fundamental types of polling fraud. . It involves counting the number of signatures/fingerprints on the electoral rolls at the close of polling. This method is standard practice in nations around the globe. At the end of polling, the polling personals count the quantity of marks/fingerprints on the appointive papers, take note of this on the outcomes shape and afterward analyze it to the quantity of polls found in the crate. On the off chance that the numbers don’t make any sense, and can’t be represented in the used ballot papers, at that point it might show ballot stuffing and ought to be considered for advance examination. A basic change in the methods is all that would be required.
Separate polling days:
The general elections of 2013 witnessed large number of people queuing long in the scorching heat of May to cast their vote. It is but a matter of record that ECP failed to hold the general election process in the best possible way as allegations ranging of mismanagement to organized rigging came pouring out and it took better part of around 3 years (and 5 months long dharna) for courts to decide the petitions arising out from grievances of 2013 elections. This was mainly to do with the fact that organization of elections of such magnitude in an efficient and transparent manner is absolutely inconceivable when polling are being held in roughly 69,000 polling stations all through the nation.
This takes us to an important reform – holding of general elections on separate days in each province. Invariably a smaller election will dependably be fairer and transparent than a bigger one. This is because if the greater part of the ECP’s assets are amassed in one region at a given time instead of spread over the whole nation; the probability of holding free and fair elections are considerably higher.
This is not a novel idea, but is practiced in many countries across the globe. For instance, in 2014, India held its sixteenth general elections over a time of a month and a half. The balloting was done in nine stages. Though there were clearly various debates relating to some of these elections, but all in all the electoral process in India are considered more efficient, transparent and fairer than Pakistan.
Biometric Voting system and Voter Registration:
The issue of multiple voting can be addressed by introducing Biometric Voting system and Voter Registration. The data of all eligible voters is available with the NADRA and same can be utilized to avoid duplicity of votes. If SIMs can be biometrically verified by street merchants then why this procedure can’t be employed for electing the leadership of the country?
Right of Vote to Overseas Pakistanis:
Another contentious issue that still needs to be addressed is the right of vote of overseas Pakistanis. Overseas Pakistanis play an important role in developing the economy of the country. The reimbursements sent by overseas Pakistanis account for major foreign reserves of Pakistan. In this backdrop, overseas Pakistani deserves the right to elect their representatives. Just before the 2013 elections, Supreme Court ordered the ECP to allow overseas Pakistani to cast their vote, but the same was not materialized due to paucity of time. However, much water has flown since the 2013 elections, but little, if any, has been done to facilitate overseas Pakistani for casting their vote. It is high time that the proposed Election Bill must incorporate the mechanism of allowing overseas Pakistanis to cast their vote.
None of the Above Option:
Many individuals consider that having NOTA (None of the above) alternative on the ballot paper is a voter’s fundamental right. In Pakistan, where voters contend that they are frequently constrained to vote in favor of the lesser of disasters, this is maybe especially critical.
Be that as it may, it is suggested that NOTA option on the ballot paper may be included and elections should be again held if the NOTA option wins in any constituency.
One Candidate One Seat:
The 2013 general elections in Pakistan saw a remarkable numbers of applicants. Also, a few applicants submitted their nomination papers in more than one constituency. Many prominent politicians such as Imran Khan contested the general elections on multiple seats. This created hosts of problems. The nomination paper of the candidate was approved by one RO, but rejected by another. Moreover, the ECP needed to conduct by-polls elections in 41 constituencies just three months after the 2013 general elections because of the candidates who won races in numerous constituencies. This not only burdened the state exchequer, but also limited the options of public to elect their representatives. It is therefore, recommended that necessary reform be introduced limiting the candidate to one constituency only.
Section 49 of Representative of People Act (ROPA) places limitations on the measure of costs that a candidate may incur on his campaign. A contender for a National Assembly is just allowed to incur Rs1.5 million while the cost for a candidate for the Provincial Assembly is topped at Rs1 million.
The law further requires that every candidate must present an announcement of costs alongside duplicates of all bills, receipts and his own affirmation 30 days after his success. But the powerlessness of the ECP to successfully check the affirmation prompts a slipshod exercise making the law more or less redundant. It is imperative that necessary safeguards be introduced empowering the ECP to look into the financial aspects of the campaign and even de-notify a candidate that has spent unusual amount of money.
Scrutiny of Nomination Papers:
The General Elections 2013 witnessed the most outrageous scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates by ROs. The examination of candidates is directed by Returning Officers selected by the ECP under Section 7 of ROPA. For the 2013 general elections, the ECP delegated sitting District Judges as Returning Officers all through the nation on the request of the political parties. ROs in their quest to ensure that candidates meet the touchstones as enshrined in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution went a stop too forward and solicited some of the most ridiculous inquiries, that mocked the candidates before the live cameras.
No one denies the fact that chosen representative of the people must possess qualities of moral and pious being. But have we properly understood the investigative procedure and underlying intention of the Articles 62 and 63. It is essential that a uniform policy for scrutiny of nomination papers and examination of candidates be adopted across the nation.
The General elections of 2013 and some by – elections mainly in KPK and Baluchistan witnessed the low turnout of female voters ostensibly due to the collusive agreement of contesting parties restraining women from casting their vote. These horrendous attempts to curb the basic fundamental rights of women were met with severe hue and cry from length and breadth of the nation. In this respect, the proposal of the Election Bill 2017 which empowers the ECP to nullify the result of entire constituency if the vote cast by the women falls below 10% of the total vote casted. This indeed, is the step in the right direction. Women constitute more than half population of Pakistan. Restraining women from exercising their basic fundamental is illegal and unconstitutional. It is hoped that the Election Bill 2017, when eventually transformed in the Act contains the same very provision, perhaps with an higher ratio i.e., 25%.