Shortcomings in 2013 polls: electoral reform vital to avert crisis

The Election Commission of Pakistan Monday quietly released a review report formulated in December 2013; on May 2013 general polls admitting various irregularities were committed during the elections.
The report also admitted that candidates got clearance clear to run for elections without proper scrutiny as the State Bank, FBR, NADRA and NAB did not cooperate fully with the Election Commission. It also pointed out that a Results Management System devised by the UNDP was a failure. The report said that in some areas, teams appointed by the ECP for campaign monitoring could not deliver the expected outcome .The ROs had the full authority to accept or reject nomination papers of the contesting candidates, but due to non- issuance of instructions on the part of ECP as how the process be undertaken, it was left to the ROs’ discretion/judicial competence, the report said.
It added provisions of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution are subjective, and the application of these clauses varied from one RO to another. This caused inconsistencies in the scrutiny process. The new nomination form has superfluous information and many aspiring candidates sought help in completing this new form.
The reports not doubt has proved that the current electoral process has many loopholes that only suit to those elements that are given the task to make entire process transparent, fair and just so that nobody could raise finger after losing the polls. It also raised questions on the credibility of the election commission. The ECP was tasked to ensure fair and transparent polls in 2013 but unfortunately it failed to deliver the job. The bigwigs of SBP, FBR, NAB and NADRA failed to comply with the orders of ECP that tried to obtain and make public potential candidates’ records of the contestors. The setting up of scrutiny cell in the election commission Secretariat with members from NAB, SBP, FBR and NADRA to verify the candidates’ nomination papers proved to be futile exercise. The scrutiny period was too short, and some of these organizations did not provide information in the required time, so candidates were cleared without proper verification.
The political parties’ candidates and independent contesters openly violated the code of conduct which was gone unnoticed despite the hue and cry made by the contesters as well public. The contesters spent huge amount during the election campaign and displayed arms without fearing of getting disqualification.

The report has definitely given strength to the political parties who are terming 2013 elections as ROs polls. Especially the PTI and PAT leaders who with the support of allied parties have launched a protest movement to topple the incumbent government as both the protesting parties seeking dissolution of assemblies, electoral reforms and punishing those officials involved in irregularities during the 2013 general polls. The non-cooperative attitude on the part of relevant institutions now caused adverse affect on country’s economy and helped in creating uncertainty among the masses.

Though the sitting government has taken positive steps by making the report of ECP public at a time when it is being blamed for rigging, but the government has to introduce electoral reforms and a law should be made with the consensus of all the stakeholders so that in future nobody could raise any finger to electoral process or any government for its involvement in rigging.

Had the resignation of then chief election commissioner, Fakhro Bhai been taken seriously by the concerned quarters, the country would not have to face the chaotic situation which had pitched the activists of various political parties as well leaders against each other. Fakhur G Ebrahim was no doubt a highly trusted man suitable for the job as none of the contester either independent or affiliated to any party objected over his nomination. He seemed committed to hold free and fair elections and initiatives he had taken to get the job done were praise worth but all his efforts evaporated in smoke due to lack of coordination among the various institutions.
No action was taken against the contesters who violated the same code of conduct that was formulated in consultation with them. They certainly had responsibilities to make electoral process smooth and credible.

Though it was not the sitting government to be blamed for as it was the duty of the caretaker government to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, but now the huge responsibility lies on the shoulder of the incumbent government to learn from the mistake of the caretakers who failed to deliver taking advantage of loopholes in the electoral system. The PML-N has the opportunity to devise foolproof strategy for the upcoming elections. There is dire need to overhaul the election commission and get rid of black sheep present in its ranks. The government without wasting time, must work for electoral reforms with an aim not to let any body repeat the mistakes made in general polls that had pushed the government into dark alley.








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