Abolition of women reserved seats opposed

Electoral reforms body meets

ISLAMABAD - Religious political parties on Tuesday opposed the proposal floated by other political parties’ members in the Electoral Reforms Committee regarding abolition of reserved seats for women, preferring direct elections on women seats.
The 13th meeting of the Electoral Reforms Committee was held at the Parliament House with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the chair. Dar promised that the draft of electoral reforms would be ready in a month and would be forwarded to parliament for approval.
Some participants of the meeting told The Nation that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) suggested that women should contest directly in election instead of reserving them a quota.
Memebers of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) too showed no objection if women could contest direct election. However, Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) and Jamaat Islami (JI) members vehemently opposed the idea, saying seats should remain reserved for women.
Being an in-camera meeting, reporters are not allowed to attend the committee. But JUI-F MNA from Mardan Naeema Kishwar, beneficiary of the reserved seats for women, told this reporter that there should be no direct election on seats reserved for women.
JI’s MNA Tariqullah also said that he opposed the suggestion that women should directly contest on seats reserved for them, adding it would further complicate the things. “The government will have to carve out more constituencies if women are directly elected,” he argued.
Members of the committee privy to the meeting said that the 29-member committee was almost near to making draft of electoral reforms that would be sent to party heads later so that each political party has its view on the recommendations.
They said that five constitutional reforms would be carried out, including the mechanism to include overseas Pakistanis in casting votes during election, introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometric verification of voters.
The committee agreed that biometric machines would be used as pilot project in the upcoming by-elections in Haripur where voters would cast votes on 50 polling stations using biometric system.
Some members also said article 62 and 63 should be abolished as there were non-Muslims too who are not required to learn some Quranic verses by heart.
Chairman of the committee Ishaq Dar assured the members that recommendations would be ready in a month, adding there was a pause in convening meeting of the committee after PTI lawmakers boycotted attending proceedings of the National Assembly and subsequently remaining absent as members of the electoral reforms committee.
He, however, assured that meetings of the committee would be convened timely so that electoral reforms could be introduced at the earliest. A special working group was formulated that would help in reforming the electoral system.
MNA Tariqullah said that it was recommended that Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be made financially independent as currently, the commission has to rely on funds released by the Finance Ministry.
Besides, the ECP should take direct action against officials from other government departments found irresponsible while performing their duties during elections. “At present ECP has to file complaint with the parent department of the officer in case he is found guilty during dispensing their duty in election. We think ECP should directly punish those who are lazy in election duties,” the lawmaker said.
Lawmakers also showed their resentment over the slow progress on census arguing electoral reforms would not see light of the day until the authorities have no authentic data.

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