Parliamentary panel leaves contentious issues for parent committee to decide
A parliamentary subcommittee Tuesday failed to develop consensus on a number of proposals to reform the electoral system, leaving the contentious issues for the parent committee to decide.
Headed by former law minister Zahid Hamid, the subcommittee discussed proposals to cut the term of the assemblies short, direct elections to the seats reserved for women and elections to the Senate. However, the panel failed to reach an agreement on any of these issues.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had proposed to reduce the term of the assemblies from five to four years, but many political parties did not agree with the suggestion.
Mending the electoral system
Hamid later told the media that the matter had been forwarded to the main committee, which comprises representatives from all the parties in parliament.
The parent committee, headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, has received more than 1,200 proposals from different stakeholders to reform the electoral system in the country.
A subcommittee was formed to vet the proposals and prepare a draft outlining amendments in the laws and the constitution.
The panel also deferred the proposal to increase the number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies until a fresh population census in conducted.
Direct elections on women’s seats under study
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has proposed increasing the number of seats for Balochistan in the national and provincial assemblies.
This triggered a demand from other parties to increase the seats in all the houses since the last increase had occurred in 2002.
Similarly, no decision could be made on the important proposal of changing the mechanism for elections on the reserved seats for women and for senators.
Some political parties have been advocating the idea of direct elections for women’s seats and for senators. In its October 7 meeting the subcommittee had sought recommendations from all the parties on the proposals to hold direct elections on the seats reserved for women in the lower and upper house of parliament and in the four provincial assemblies.
Overhauling electoral system: Poll reforms panel completes 80% work
The parties were also asked to give their opinion on the demand of changing the procedure for electing senators.
There has been criticism over these indirect elections and to change this system would require amendments in the constitution.
As for the local government elections, the panel has decided to give legal cover to the polls: once the term of the local government expires in any province, new elections will be held within 120 days.
The previous LG system, introduced by former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, had expired in 2009.
It took the provinces years to conduct fresh elections. Sindh and Punjab are still in the process of setting up a new system.
The newly proposed amendment would also cover holding the LG elections in Islamabad and the cantonments within 120 days after their local governments’ terms expire.
Meanwhile, the PPP has suggested making changes in articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, which deal with the criteria for qualification and disqualification of a lawmaker.
The party seeks to delete Gen Ziaul Haq-era amendments in these articles that, according to the PPP, added vague religious injunctions in the laws.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2015.