The government is likely to introduce crucial reforms to key electoral laws ahead of the upcoming general elections to ensure that the process is free and fair.
The National Assembly standing committee on law and justice will review the draft bill on Monday, which aims to introduce committees in all districts to eradicate complaints during the electioneering period, commencing with the announcement of polling schedule.
For the first time, a decentralised mechanism to address pre-poll rigging complaints and speedy disposal of disputes afterwards will be introduced.
The likely amendments to election related laws have proposed making the process of post polls disputes’ disposal speedy and easy, curtailing the role of too many departments including the judiciary.
The proposals were finalised by a sub-committee formed by the house law panel under Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Member of National Assembly S A Iqbal Qadri, after a year of deliberations with stakeholders including all political parties and civil society organisations.
One objective of the new bill, Qadri said, was to transfer most of powers of the chief election commissioner (CEC) to the commission itself as envisaged in the 18th Constitutional Amendment passed by the parliament in 2010.
Law Committee’s Chairperson Begum Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry told The Express Tribune on Sunday that the reforms were backed by all opposition groups including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
“It is going to create history. Never in the past have such liberal and progressive reforms been introduced by any government,” said Chaudhry, who is from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Iqbal Qadri, the convener of the sub-committee that drafted the bill to amend electoral laws, explained that the process of candidates forwarding objections to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will now take place at district levels, unlike in the past.
An official at the ECP said that committees chaired by the District Election Officers would be established across the country to make sure that prompt action is taken against any complaint of pre-poll rigging.
The committees will have the district chiefs of administration and police as its members, the official added.
Besides them, nominees of all political parties, contesting candidates, media personnel and representatives of civil society will also be members of the committees to suggest action on any pre-poll complaints.
Simplifying the process for disposing of post-poll disputes was another objective the bill aims to achieve, according to both Qadri and the ECP official.
Qadri added that high court judges of the election tribunal will now be given a timeframe to resolve complaints.
Additionally, the tribunal will not be bound to interview all the candidates of a constituency where a dispute occurs but only the complainant and winning contenders.
According to the draft, complaints will not be routed through the ECP but can be filed directly to the tribunal, saving a lot of time. Though it was not confirmed by either Akhtar Chaudhry or Iqbal Qadri, officials said the proposed draft had a suggestion that disputes settled by the tribunal should not be challenged in any court — a mechanism that would minimise the judiciary’s role.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ