Comprising members of both Houses, the panel will work to develop consensus on the contentious use of EVMs and I-voting for overseas Pakistanis
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government and opposition parties on Tuesday agreed to take up the issue of electoral reforms through a parliamentary panel comprising lawmakers from both the Senate and the National Assembly.
“It was agreed that a committee comprising members from both the Houses would be constituted to work on various issues related to electoral reforms,” read a brief statement issued by the National Assembly Secretariat following a meeting of opposition parliamentarians with National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and other government lawmakers. “It was decided that motions would be moved in both Houses for constitution of the committee,” it added.
“It was also decided that the National Assembly speaker would be authorized to nominate members of the electoral reforms committee in consultation with parliamentary leaders,” it said.
The decision to form a parliamentary panel suggests the government has abandoned its plans to bulldoze its controversial electoral reforms through a joint session of Parliament. Last week, several ministers had claimed that they did not require the opposition’s support as they had the numbers to pass legislation through a joint session. Critics had slammed this as undemocratic, adding that it would make the country’s electoral system more contentious rather than restoring the public’s trust.
The government’s proposed amendments seek the introduction of electronic voting machines and the right of internet voting for overseas Pakistanis. The Election Commission of Pakistan has already voiced its reservations over the use of EVMs, noting that mass adoption of the technology should not come before pilot tests have been conducted to identify any issues. It has also voiced concerns over lack of capacity to implement the technology and urged the government to develop consensus before rushing into it. It warned that EVMs were not free of rigging concerns, adding that they could produce “more sophisticated fraud” that would be harder to identify.
In response, government ministers have been repeatedly accusing the institution, as well as Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja of “bias.” Fawad, in several media appearances, has gone so far as to accuse the CEC of serving as a “mouthpiece” of the opposition. Similarly, Railways Minister Azam Swati has been quoted as calling for the ECP to be “set on fire.” The ECP has issues notices to both ministers demanding they prove their allegations.
The opposition, meanwhile, has maintained that the government’s haste in implementing EVMs without consensus suggests it has plans to use them for “rigging” in the next general elections.