Govt proposes amending Section 94 of Elections Act

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan on Friday said the government has proposed an amendment to Section 94 of the Elections Act, 2017 to extend the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis, touting the move as one of the long-standing demands of the expat community.

The amendment is part of the government’s expansive electoral reforms it has been pushing for months and claims would resolve the issue “plaguing” the electoral processes in the country.

The premier’s adviser, dilating on the proposed amendments, said the government’s announcement of a comprehensive reform package that includes a total of 49 revisions, amendments and deletion of clauses to the Election Act of 2017 was a positive step.

Awan said the electoral reforms were also needed to ensure democracy within the political parties.

Therefore, a new section – Section 213(A) – was being introduced that would make it mandatory for parties to hold annual conventions to seek people’s feedback on the performance of the party and its leaders.

According to Awan, another reform was under consideration that aims at preparing electoral rolls on the basis of data with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

Awan said that Section 103 of the Election Act 2017 is also being amended to enable the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the elections to resolve the issue of rigging, adding the measure will deter illicit practices in the election process and discourage those who were involved in such acts.

Describing it as a “revolutionary step, Awan said the introduction of EVMs would change the country’s electoral system in the future, adding the premier intended to provide a level playing field to all political parties. In this regard, the government was adopting a consensus-based approach by contacting all political parties to ensure seamless legislation, he maintained.

Defending the use and feasibility of electronic machines, he emphasised that there was nothing secret in the machine and its only purpose was to bring transparency to the electoral process. “Even the ECP is opting for technological change for improving the electoral process,” the minister said.

The PTI government, he said, after coming into power “bore the torch of reforms in the electoral process” and its successive initiatives provided a “ray of hope” for overhauling the electoral system.

The government in its three years performance report also highlighted the initiatives taken for electoral reforms being spearheaded by the prime minister for ensuring transparent, free and fair elections.

A government bill on electoral reforms titled “Election (amendments) Bill 2020” as approved by the cabinet was introduced in the National Assembly, which after consideration has passed and transmitted to the Senate.

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