ISLAMABAD:(APS)Feb 10,2017-PILDAT has commended the work done by the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms and termed it as a positive development for better quality of elections in Pakistan. PILDAT forwarded its proposed amendments in the Elections Bill 2017 to the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms before the expiry of the deadline of January 19, 2017 and asked the committee to seriously consider and incorporate the proposed amendments before passing the bill.
A key PILDAT proposal is that all candidates for the membership of the Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies should declare their permanent residential status in any foreign country as a part of the declarations to be made in the nomination forms. ‘Since public office in Pakistan requires presence in Pakistan and undivided attention of the elected legislators, it is very important for the electors to know the foreign residential status such as US ‘Green Card’ or Saudi Iqama, if any’ said the PILDAT statement.
PILDAT opposed giving exemption to contributions of less than Rs. 100,000 from disclosing name, address and particulars of the contributor. PILDAT said that all contributions, irrespective of the value, should be identified, recorded and reported to the Election Commission.
PILDAT called for greater transparency of political finance and demanded that all financial statements submitted by the candidates, elected legislators and political parties should be uploaded on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) website.
PILDAT supported granting of powers to the ECP to scrutinize the statements of assets and liabilities submitted by election candidates, elected legislators and political parties.
PILDAT demanded that election ads should not be allowed on television channels as these will make the election campaign very expensive.
With regards to the provisions relating to political parties, PILDAT has recommended that it may be mandated by law that the Central Executive Committee/Central Working Committee of a party should be required to meet at least 4 times a year. In addition, political parties may be asked under law to maintain an updated roster of members, which the ECP may be able to inspect. Political parties may also be required to make public, or place the updated list of their General Council and Executive Committee and all national, provincial and local office bearers on their website. Similarly, powers and functions of the party head may also be clearly mentioned in the party’s constitution in order to avoid giving him/her blanket powers.
PILDAT took strong exception to Section 239 of the proposed law, which states that the ECP would have the power to make rules ‘with the approval of the Government’. This severely diminishes the independence of the ECP and it should be allowed to make rules and procedures as it deems fit, without approval of the Government.
PILDAT also stated that the proposed bill stipulates only 7 days for the review and scrutiny of nomination papers. This period is not enough and it is critical that the limit be increased to at least 28 days to facilitate ECP’s cumbersome task of scrutiny.
Importantly, Section 9 of the proposed bill, which stipulates a minimum percentage of the female vote cast for the election to be declared valid may be revisited. Rather, the elections bill should list as an offence to compel any person to vote or refrain from voting, directly or indirectly, through an agreement or otherwise, as originally stipulated under Section 81 of Representation of People Act, 1976. In addition, strong measures should be taken to enforce this.