Political parties and civil society called for Pakistan’s electoral reforms to be fast tracked in view of the 2018 elections. They agreed that such changes to the rules of the game need to be made well ahead of the elections. This was the main conclusion of a roundtable organised by DRI on 6 October 2016 bringing together civil society and political parties to engage in a dialogue with the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER).
The PCER is tasked with improving electoral laws to strengthen the Pakistan’s electoral process. Two years after its establishment, there remains a lack of public information on the reforms and the Committee’s progress. Committee member Iqbal Qadri outlined the PCER’s work, stating: “we are reviewing each electoral law clause-by-clause,” while Bushra Gohar of the Awami National Party (ANP) called for “a timeline for the reforms process” this year and asked all political parties to expedite reforms via their committee members.
Civil society representatives said reforms were needed as soon as possible to allow time for changes to be applied and fully understood by all actors ahead of the 2018 general elections. Participants also stressed the need for proper public consultation on reforms. Activist Sarwar Bari said: “We demand that the draft law be made public – we need it now.”
“Legal reforms are about changing the rules of the game. Therefore, meaningful involvement of, and consultation with, all stakeholders, including political parties, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) national experts, civil society and marginalised groups is important,” said Hannah Roberts, Former Deputy Chief Observer of the EU’s Election Observation Mission to Pakistan.
DRI’s Country Representative Hassan Nasir Mirbahar concluded that “time is of the essence because the Election Commission of Pakistan will need time to put legal changes into practice”.
For more information, see DRI’s latest report Fix it before it breaks: local election lessons for 2018 elections in Pakistan.