Parliament and Civil Society to Work Together to Ensure Women’s Participation and other Key Electoral Reforms
Islamabad, 17 October 2012
At a public hearing held in Islamabad on Wednesday, the Special Committee of the Senate on Electoral Issues reiterated its commitment to promote a greater role of the parliament with regards to electoral reforms. The Committee agreed to expedite the process of key electoral reforms, urgently needed before the next general elections, and stressed that the agenda of reforms will be carried forward in consultation and collaboration with political parties, civil society, ECP and other stakeholders. The hearing was arranged by the Committee and Democracy Reporting International (DRI), who assisted the committee in organizing the public hearing under its EU-sponsored program to support advocacy for electoral reforms in Pakistan.
The public hearing was chaired by its Convener and Leader of the House, Senator Muhammad Jahangir Bader. More than 20 Pakistani and international organizations representing various sectors of civil society and political parties presented their recommendations on electoral reform. Amongst these organisations where Aurat Foundation, Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Development Communications Network (DevCom), Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), Pak Women, Pattan Development Organization (Pattan), Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), PML Women Wing (PML), SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sungi Development Foundation (Sungi), Democracy Reporting International (DRI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), National Democratic Institute (NDI), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women.
Democracy Reporting International and the other participating organisations urged the Parliament to play its role and to initiate the process to reform Pakistan’s electoral legislation in line with the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty which Pakistan has ratified. Amongst the key reforms discussed, ensuring full participation of women both as voters as well as candidates was considered a top priority. The civil society representatives also highlighted the need to reform those provisions related to political finances, to introduce legally binding Codes of Conducts and to provide transportation for the voters. The civil society was unanimous in its call for making the electoral rolls error free, to promote the registration of those who are not included in the list and to ensure public access to the lists.
The organisations also demanded transparent management of the electoral process by the ECP, including full access of observers to results aggregation and immediate publication of all polling station results and an effective system of election dispute resolution. Moreover, the organisations highlighted the need to promote greater public awareness in order to increase voter turnout and trust of people into the democracy.
A number of other organizations including representatives of parties, bar associations, business community, media and rights groups participated in the open discussion followed by the presentations. They emphasised that to achieve the reforms parliament should immediately begin an inclusive process of stakeholder consultation based on constitutional requirements and Pakistan’s international law obligations.
In the concluding remarks, Senator Muhammad Jahangir Bader affirmatively assured to the participants that the committee will review their recommendations and incorporate them into Committee’s report. “The legislative reforms recommended by the stakeholders will be put on the agenda of the Senate and sooner rather than later” he said. He invited the members of National Assembly Sub Committee on Electoral Reforms to work with the committee so that a consensus could be built among the two houses on priorities. ****
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