The holding of free, fair and transparent elections in Pakistan is still something of a dream. The last election, according to most external election monitors, was one of the more honest ones that has been held and although there were clear instances of rigging of results, in the big picture, they were not enough to affect the overall outcome. The outcry over the tallying in a handful of seats occupies a disproportionate amount of time and misdirected political energy, but it is fair to say that our electoral system is long overdue for an overhaul. A task that is fraught with difficulties and pitfalls, not the least being that there are many who would not wish for a system where it was more difficult to stuff ballot boxes and conduct electoral business honestly and transparently.
The National Assembly speaker on July 25 notified the names of a 33-member electoral reform committee, having received the list of senators who were nominated by the upper house. They have an important job. Evaluating the shortcomings of the previous election and making recommendations that will have to get through the firewall erected by those bent on foiling their endeavours is complex and politically potentially dangerous. The 33 is made up of all parties proportional to their representation in parliament and is tasked to report in three months — a pinchingly narrow window considering the job in hand. Already, there is uncertainty about who will lead this disparate group and it is unlikely to be plain sailing given the polarised nature of the political landscape. The committee is going to have to elect its own chairperson internally. Assuming the committee holds together long enough to deliver a final report, it is to be hoped that e-voting features high on its list of reforms. The system proved to be a success in India at the previous election as it has elsewhere in the world where it has been introduced. Pakistan needs electoral reform, of that there is no doubt. The formation of this committee is a step in the right direction, but producing results will be a Herculean task.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2014.
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