ISLAMABAD: Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) head Mahmood Khan Achakzai criticised the role of the ‘establishment’ in elections while taking part in a debate on the Election Bill 2017 in the National Assembly on Friday. Suspending routine business through a motion, the House started discussing the bill prepared after vigorous efforts of all political parties during a period of about three years. Taking part in the discussion, Achakzai said that not even a single free and fair election had been held in the country since 1970. “Without eliminating the role of intelligence agencies in elections these laws will not work,” he said. “A total of 28 prime ministers were sent to their homes. Their combined tenures are less than the rule of three dictators,” he said. “Pakistan is the only country where first we make our children corrupt and then blackmail them. Leaders are shaped in Pakistan by institutions. Is it possible to get a real leader here? Only a united nation can create a leader. The only centre of power should be the parliament,” he said. “All parties should join hands and decide not to take back those people who made contacts with agencies. Whereas the army chief should also direct the agencies not to call the politicians,” he said. “Nawaz Shairf is not my relative. He was groomed in the same environment. However, he has learned his lesson. If he stands to strengthen the parliament, I will help him,” Achakzai said. The members of the National Assembly were of the view that the bill should be finalised in such a way that no one could object to it during the next general elections. Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) said that the loopholes in this bill should be removed and proposed that the ballot papers should be printed by the government. “In rural areas, people travel to cast their votes in groups and this practice should not be prohibited under the new law,” he said. Chief whip of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Dr Shireen Mazari said that her party members had fully participated in deliberations on the bill. “However, we have some reservations. If the House passed this bill without passing the constitutional amendments, it will not be possible to hold transparent elections. We want both constitutional amendments and election bill to be passed at the same time. The government can make it possible,” she said. She said that the bureaucratic mind-set was a hurdle in the electoral reforms. “It is the right of one million overseas Pakistanis to use their right to vote, but the Election Commission of Pakistan has not given any assurance in this regards so far,” she said. She demanded the reconstitution of the ECP ahead of the next general elections. She said that the caretaker government should also be formulated on fifty percent proposals each from the government and opposition. SA Qadri of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) stressed the need to provide a level-playing field for all contestants in general elections. Published in Daily Times, August 19th 2017.