ISLAMABAD – Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, hearing a petition for reforms in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) laws on Wednesday, said they had made it clear on a number of occasions that there was no place for any other system except democracy in the country and that all the people should make efforts to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions.
During the last hearing on Tuesday, the court directed the ECP to gear up to hold the forthcoming elections in accordance with the Constitution, particularly, meeting the requirements of holding free and fair elections.
During the proceeding, the chief justice said the gradual reforms in the ECP laws would bring a positive change. The court sought reply from the federal government on January 20 regarding compulsory voting in the general elections.
The chief justice inquired from the attorney general what the stance of the federal government on compulsory voting was. Attorney General Irfan Qadir replied that he would ask the federation whether there should be legislation with regard to that or not. He said in many countries, including America and Canada, there was no condition of compulsory voting.
The AGP further argued that there were some countries where voting was essential. He said if a citizen had a right to cast vote, he/she also had the right not to cast his/her vote. Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked they had never stated that not exercising right to vote should be declared a crime under Pakistan Penal Code.
The chief justice remarked the law should be amended for strengthening democracy. He asked the AGP whether the government was able to frame a law in this regard before the election schedule which was being announced in a month or so. The court said they would appreciate if the government amended the law, making it essential for every citizen to cast his/her vote.
Bilal Hassan Manto, the petitioner, prayed that there should be ban on unlimited use of money during the elections. Justice Azmat stated: “The elections should not be a game of rich people, so they are emphasising on reforms.” He said the purpose of compulsory voting was that maximum people should participate in the electoral process and governance.
The hearing was adjourned till January 30.