ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan expects from parliament to enact electoral reforms bill by the end of this month in order to get the commission ready for on time 2018 general elections.
The ECP foresees next elections on July 31 or August 1st next year in case the assemblies complete their five-year term. In March next year, four months before the election day, the ECP is bound to give certificate to the government that it is ready for elections.
Informed sources in the commission told The News that in order to achieve the target, parliament should enact new electoral reform law by the end of this month.
These sources said that already the commission is scheduled to carry out a momentous task of delimitation of constituencies which will take six months. The delimitation process will start mid next month and conclude in mid March next year.
Although, the National Assembly has already passed the electoral reforms bill, the Senate Committee on Law and Justice seeks an improvement in the bill as passed by the Lower House. In this case, the bill as to be passed by the Senate will be referred back to the National Assembly for approval. With their fingers crossed, the ECP officials are eager to see the enactment completed by the end of this month.
Senate Committee on Law and Justice, which met on Wednesday to deliberate on the bill as passed by the National Assembly, has shown its intention to further improve electoral reforms bill. The committee will continue its deliberations and is scheduled to meet again on September 11.
According to the Committee sources, certain improvements are being suggested by the body members after which it would be necessary to refer the bill back to the National Assembly for passage.
These committee sources though quote the Election Commission officials as telling the Senate body that the commission can wait till October for enactment of the reformed electoral law. However, ECP sources insist that going into Oct will make things risky.
“The ECP has originally sought the enactment of new election law by July 31 this year to comfortably complete all its election related tasks,” a source said, lamenting that even in September we are not sure when the law will be enacted finally.
The ECP sources hope that the Senate Law and Justice Committee will complete its deliberations in its next meeting on Sept 11 to ensure that the future steps of passage of bill by the Senate and then the National Assembly are completed by the end of this month.
Recently, this newspaper while quoting ECP sources had warned that delays on part of the government and opposition parties in the approval and implementation of much-awaited electoral reforms were endangering the 2018 election which may end up in a serious voting mess leading to political chaos. It was said that elections were the biggest activity in peace time but the ECP was not getting timely assistance from relevant government authorities and parliament in terms of passing new laws and updating data.
It should be recalled that on 25th July, 2014, the Special Committee of Parliament on Electoral Reforms was formed comprising 33 members from the National Assembly and Senate with ToR to accomplish the task of Electoral Reforms within three-months. The committee was asked to submit its report to parliament but despite the lapse of almost three years, the law regarding the electoral reforms has not yet been enacted.