ISLAMABAD, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 26th Jan, 2017 ) : Leaders of 15 political parties here Thursday expressed serious reservations over the draft Elections Bill, 2017 and urged the government to initiate structured engagement with important political parties to improve the draft that could reflect the will of the people. The meeting of representatives of poltical parties was facilitated by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), which endorsed FAFEN's recommendations for further improvement in the draft bill.
The political leaders agreed that the Draft Elections Bill, 2017 needed further improvement as it did not capture the spirit of Article 218 (3) of the Constitution that ensured autonomy and independence of the Election Commission and the landmark verdict of Supreme Court in Workers Party case in 2012. They opined that any law that did not guarantee complete independence and unbridled autonomy, could not ensure conduct of free, fair, honest and just elections as required by the Constitution.
The law in current form only protected the interests of political actors, who wanted to perpetuate the status quo, the participants agreed and unanimously recommended to Parliament to introduce proportionate representation system, direct elections to Senate as well as on reserved seats for women and non-Muslims as part of the ongoing electoral reforms process. They also had a consensus view on need for introducing effective and practical checks on the use of money in elections and need for urgency to boost voter registration of women and other marginalized groups, especially in remote areas of Balochistan, FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and urban Sindh.
The participants also showed concern on the procedure of selection of the Eelection Commission members and the caretaker setup. The leaders advocated for making public the minutes of the meetings between Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition on appointment of Commission members and caretaker setup. They emphasized that bipartisan approach should not be used to protect the status quo. The participants also expressed views on census and delimitation of Constituencies.
Parties from Balochistan showed their concerns over displacement of population in the province due to insurgency and voiced for the early return of people to their native lands. Dr. Abdul Hayee Baloch, President Balochistan National Movement, Dr. Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Senator Balochistan National Party Mengal, Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, General Secretary Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Syed Yousaf Shah, Spokesperson Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami, Dr. Safdar Ali Abbasi, President Pakistan People's Party Workers, Farooq Tariq, Spokesperson of Awami Workers Party, Syed Hafeezuddin of Pak Sarzameen Party, Adnan Haider Randhawa, Chairman Aam Admi Party of Pakistan, Bostan Ali from Hazara Democratic Party, Mian Qayoom, Chairman Labour Qaumi Movement, Nasir Sherazi, Secretary Political Affairs Majlis-e-Wahdatul-Muslimeen, Peer Jamil Nasir Hashmi, Senior Vice President Jamiat Ulema Pakistan Noorani, Rashid Ali Daudpota, Media Secretary Awami Tehreek (Sindh), Shahzeb Dhareja from Saraikistan Democratic Party and Lateef Ansari from Sanjh Tehreek attended the meeting.