Soon after the 2018 elections, the opposition parties had pointed fingers at the transparency of elections and had demanded some corrective measures thereof. This forced the government then to form a parliamentary committee to investigate into the allegations and finally a special parliamentary committee constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser in October 2018 on opposition’s demand to probe the charges of rigging in the elections held in July that year was formed and given the task of probing into the matter. However, the committee could not meet the expectations of the opposition and failed to complete the task timely which forced the opposition parties to finally announce boycott of the committee in June 2019.
The PTI government has finally made public a set of reforms to the electoral process among which the holding of Senate elections through an open vote instead of current method of secret balloting seems to be the most important one. The proposals were made public by Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood and Minister for Narcotics Control Azam Swati who were members of the same parliamentary committee which the opposition members boycotted last year. However, the committee continued its work and finally prepared the recommendations to introduce 39 electoral reforms to the current electoral system with a view to make the process more transparent, free and fair. The proposal also includes suggestions that overseas Pakistanis should be granted right to vote in elections and a biometric system may be introduced in the upcoming elections.
The set of reforms introduced by the governmental committee are a welcome one if implemented in letter and spirit. The senate elections, which are only 8 months away, have always been notorious for horse trading and mega kickbacks. Many party members have been accused of selling their loyalties and hence infringing the rights of the public to be represented by their own popular leaders. Balochistan has been unfortunate an extra mile in this regard where the senate elections had always been matter of controversy and perhaps some sort of booty distributed among the political parties on their convenience rather than true representation from the province in the upper body. Moreover, if the biometric system is introduced, a revolutionary change can be expected in the electoral process in Pakistan and chances of the rigging can diminish manifold. Because in a biometric system, the compilation of results would be automatically carried out by a software within no time and which would have a fewer chances of manipulation at the hands of the powers who want to manipulate elections for their vested interests.
Many political problems of Pakistan are owing to ill-representation of the masses in the representative policy making bodies such as National and Provincial Assemblies where often touts and stooges make their way and hence work as a puppet in the hands of their patrons. The government must implement the reforms which will be remembered as one of its best services done to the people of Pakistan in the field of electoral reforms.