Islamabad - Comprehensive electoral reforms are needed for transparent and credible elections in Pakistan.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) emphasised this here at a seminar yesterday while presenting findings and recommendations from its Election Assessment Missions to local government elections in Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

International electoral standards as enshrined in international law provide useful guidance and Pakistan has committed to fulfilling a number of international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Electoral reforms in line with these treaties will also contribute to Pakistan’s compliance with the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) trade status which the European Union has granted to Pakistan.

Speaking at the presentation of the findings and recommendations from assessment of local elections, Hassan Nasir Mirbahar, team leader of DRI Pakistan, said, “The series of local elections presented an opportunity for developing and testing practices for better elections in the future.”

Nasir added, “We saw that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took some important steps for improving the management of elections. These included training of election staff, some monitoring of the electoral process, replacing returning officers where they had performance issues, and setting guidelines for more consistent scrutiny of the nomination papers.” However, some serious weaknesses in the process were also presented.

Hannah Roberts, DRI’s election analyst, said that lack of transparency was a problem since key information about different aspects of the electoral process was not available. She noted that more public information is needed for example on delimitation, the election schedule, candidate and voter statistics, and results data. 

Roberts added that “the ECP did not publish results data, opting only to issue notifications on the winning candidates. However, the ECP has the mandate to undertake administrative measures to deliver transparent elections which includes proactively publishing key elections data.” She went on to note “when the environment is already abuzz with allegations of rigging, electoral transparency is particularly important for building the credibility of the electoral processes.”  

DRI’s reports recommend the development of electoral legislation to include mandatory protections and provisions for all aspects of the electoral process to improve future elections.

It also recommended the ECP to issue regulations about various aspects of the electoral process and institutionalise monitoring and checking mechanisms.

It also called for improving transparency by legal requirements for full results data and publicly available information on other aspects of the electoral process.

The report also asserted to amend electoral systems for reserved seats for women and minorities to give them more meaningful representation.