What kind of election reforms do we need?

What kind of election reforms do we need?

Fatos Nand once said that organising free and fair election is more important than the result itself. After the last elections, thousands of media hours have been spent on the discussion of quality, rigging and post election hearings. Even, the federal capital had to witness a sit-in for four months in this regard.

The ElectionCommission of Pakistan has admitted in its review report that there were administrative failures in the system. Hundreds of petitions were filed and are still pending for allegedelectoral riggings. The Supreme Court’scommission, that was made after the opposition’s demands, ruled out any organised rigging but did identify ambiguity in particular areas.

The parliament’scommittee on electoral reforms was made in July 2014 and has yet to provide its final recommendations. Unfortunately, our election system is plagued with mal-administration and politicisation of electoral staff. Rigging on gunpoint and bribery to attract the votersis a common practice. Moreover,political representatives threaten their opponents and every election usually does not go by violence.

In the past, the political elite deliberately closed the doors for any reform on election management to serve their own interest. The parliament’scommittee on electoral reform has put the entireburden on the shoulders of a subcommitteeconstituted by federal minister Zahid Hamid.

Proposals such as induction of electoral voting machines and other viable solutions are under the radar. The subcommittee has hinted that use of technology would cost 30 billion rupees to the election expenditures. NADRA has its own reservation on providing the data in the hands of presiding officers. Now, they have agreed to provide access to data base if EVM are used but only after software implementation and security checks.

Let’s analyze this parliamentary practice carefully. How much time is left in the election? Hardly two years and till now, nothing substantial has been done.  The draft would then be sent to electoral reforms committee in later phase. As per history, the political scoring race would then begin under the prevailing philosophy of criticism for criticism.

In case, the decision is taken for the induction ofbiometric identification system or for the use of EVM; software and test trials would take more than two year. A number of local and international exerts did not favor the use of EVM and their advice is to depend on paper balloting.

The training of voters and staff to use technology in limited time of 10-12 hours on a typical election daycannot be initiated in such a short span of time.

What’s we can do is to rub the dust of political interfering and false use of governmental resources to pull the voter in their favor, from election’s machinery. Irrespective of the technology, we have some immediate tasks to carry out in our election system.

Firstly, it’s true that our election system does not have technological advantage, socovering the entire country in asingle day makes no sense. We must expand the elections on a four days rolling period, with polling conducted in each province step by step. In this way, the election commission can work in an efficient manner. Secondly,awareness should be brought in the public about the importance of votes.

Thirdly, the waywe are dependent on public servants and judiciary is part of the problem instead of asolution.

People with credible repute in a constituency or district can potentially be assigned electoral tasks so that judicial dependence could be reduced.

Fourthly, we have given the guns of article 62 and 63 in the hands of returning officers (ROs) when it is well known that the interpretation of both articles is subjective. A former president filed his nomination papers for2013 elections from three different constituencies and afterprocessing, his papers got rejected from two ROs while the third one gave him clean chit. Hence, if a person does not have criminal record or he/she has filed his tax returns accordingly, then that person should be allowed to contest.

The least could be done is to have capable elected representatives to run the country. In addition, we need to question our representatives about their overall performance in a systematic manner.

Responsibility duly lies on the shoulders of incumbent regime to ensure a fair electoral process and that is the utmost need of the hour.