Pakistan’s prime minister writes letter stressing the implementation of free and fair, transparent elections
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday wrote a letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser asking him to form an inter-party parliamentary committee to discuss electoral reforms and reach consensus on introducing ‘best practices’ to strengthen democracy in Pakistan.
“The recent Senate elections have highlighted once again the scourge of vote purchasing in the prevailing non-transparent manner of conducting elections,” read the letter, which reiterated that the prime minister had “always” demanded electoral reforms to ensure transparent, free and fair elections. Summarizing the efforts undertaken by the incumbent government to introduce electoral reforms, he noted that a bill had been submitted in Parliament to “remove the prevailing stigma attached to our electoral process.”
He stressed that the recently concluded Senate elections had “achieved notoriety” because of the buying and selling of votes, and reiterated that the Supreme Court had asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure transparent elections and stated the secrecy of the ballot was not absolute. “Unfortunately, the ECP paid no heed to the SC judgment and failed to carry out fair and free Senate elections,” he added.
Noting that the existing system had become controversial because all elections resulted in losers declaring rigging, he said that this had destroyed the credibility of all elections in the country, and hampered the functioning of the parliamentary system.
“I would request you to immediately form an inter-party parliamentary committee to discuss these reforms and come to an agreement on how to introduce best practices including the use of technology and introduction of EVMs [electronic voting machines] to strengthen our electoral system and democracy,” he said.
The prime minister said a definitive time frame should be decided to reach an agreement on electoral reforms so that enough time is given to implement the required measures before the next general elections.
“It is in the interest of democracy in Pakistan to establish a credible and transparent electoral system and put an end to all venues that allow for corrupt practices that are eroding our parliamentary democracy,” he concluded.
Addressing the government’s recommendation of EVMs, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi alleged it was merely a “new way of stealing elections.” In a press conference, he questioned what should be done if the machines vanish or their data is wiped.
He said the people devising these ways are those “who themselves are involved in stealing elections and who themselves came into power after the most controversial elections held in Pakistan’s history.”
The PMLN leader claimed that the incumbent government was claiming it should be allowed to determine the election system because it was trying to implement reforms.
Criticizing the letter written by the prime minister to the NA speaker, he questioned why there was no mention of the Daska by-election in which 20 presiding officers “disappeared” for hours before returning with results that have been heavily contested.
He lamented these reforms were being sought from a Parliament “that is barely functional and has no respect for parliamentary rules.”