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Passage of contentious bills on poll reforms in Pak will jeopardise future elections: Report

ANI | Updated: Jun 17, 2021 22:26 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 17 (ANI): With Pakistan recently passing two more controversial bills on electoral reforms in haste without any consultation with the opposition, the very holding of elections might be jeopardised should the federal government continue on this path, says a local media report.
Writing for Dawn, writer Ahmed Bilal Mehboob says that the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill covered important electoral reforms and were passed by Pakistan's Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs without any debate.
He said that even if the bills are defeated in the Pakistan Senate, the ruling coalition will most likely take the two bills to the joint session of parliament where the ruling coalition has a numerical edge over the opposition.
The lack of consensus between the opposition and the ruling government over the bills may seriously, in fact critically, undermine the implementation of the reforms and the successful conduct of the next general election.
Highlighting that the opposition have openly rejected the bills, Mehboob wrote for Dawn that the remaining two years of the Imran Khan-led Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) may largely be consumed in dealing with a controversy over the hotly contested electoral laws, if it does not involve the opposition.

Furthermore, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has expressed grave objections and concerns on some of the proposed reforms, which is another serious controversy itself. The ECP also feels that some of the proposed laws, if passed, will dilute its powers which is also a violation of the Constitution.
"If these differences, especially with the ECP, persist, the chances are that the matter may end up in court. In that case, if the ECP contention is accepted, even passed laws found to be violative of the Constitution may be declared void," said Mehboob.
Four key areas of reforms are extremely contentious and there is a dire need for dialogue on these: the multimillion-dollar Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) project; the reportedly insecure system of voting for overseas Pakistanis; the indirect dilution of ECP authority to prepare electoral rolls by transferring some of its constitutionally mandated functions to National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA); the delimitation of constituencies based on the number of voters rather than the total population, Dawn reported.
Mehboob further wrote that though the ruling government may have its reasons to feel uncomfortable dealing with the ECP, the constitutional body cannot simply be wished away.
"The government must make its peace with the ECP and engage with it, making a genuine effort to address its concerns. The only way out of the impasse with the opposition is an open-hearted initiative by the government to engage with them and for the opposition to reciprocate before the passage of the bills," he wrote for Dawn.
The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, comprises 49 amendments to Elections Act in 2017, whereas the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill covers the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVM) and enabling overseas Pakistanis to cast their vote from their countries of residence. (ANI)