Pakistan: Parliament urged to make women, minorities integral part of electioneering

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Civil society has called upon the Parliament that while debating electoral reforms, it should never forget general people especially women, minorities and disabled persons’ participation in electoral process and should ensure independence and accountability of electoral processes.

Recommendations related to electoral administration, transparency, accountability and participation of all citizens including women, minorities and persons with disabilities were put forward by the representatives of civil society at the roundtable conference on “Civil Society Perspective on Electoral Reforms” arranged by Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) in Islamabad here on Friday.

They demanded strengthening and introduction of provincial election authorities in the light of 18th amendment and emerging needs of local government elections management. One of the demands was to recruit provincial members of the ECP through the provincial assemblies using the similar processes as adapted in appointment of Chief Election Commissioner.

Participating in dedicated sessions on above mentioned themes, the civil society representatives welcomed the formation of Special Parliamentary committee on Electoral Reforms by the Parliament of Pakistan to undertake comprehensive reforms and urged the committee to put the interest of citizens and voters at the center stage of the reforms process.

Zafarullah Khan of Centre for Civic Education said in his introductory remarks that it was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that the agenda of electoral reforms was led by the parliament instead of other institutions. “Electoral reforms need serious legislative process and it is welcome step that the parliamentary committee is welcoming recommendations from citizens and civil society” he said.

Presenting on accountability and transparency of electoral processes, Hassan Nasir of Democracy Reporting International (DRI) insisted that the independence of ECP should be ensured by removing presidential approval for introducing new rules and regulations. However “independence of ECP should be coupled with requirements of accountability and responsiveness” he said.

“Without acknowledging voters and political parties as primary stakeholders of the electoral process, any reforms process would only be narrow and limited” said Muddasir Rizvi of Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN). He also demanded structural reforms in the functioning of Election Commission of Pakistan and related processes.

Participating in the session on women’s participation, Rakhsanda Naz said that the modalities for election of women on the reserved seats should be defined and current party list system for reserved seats should be improved so that the women can be elected directly and fairly.

SOURCE: Zubair Qureshi, October 18th 2014: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=254659