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Electoral reforms bill

The government has finally managed to pass the bill on electoral reforms allowing the use of electronic voting machines in elections and granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis. Immediately after the bill sailed in a joint session of parliament, the opposition announced to challenge the legislation in the Supreme Court.

The opposition has bitterly opposed the use of EVMS with Shehbaz Sharif calling them ‘evil and vicious machines’ and Bilawal complaining that the bill was not passed with consensus. Despite the opposition’s claim of bulldozing legislation, the passage of the bill is a major victory for the PTI government. Prime Minister Imran said he has personal agenda and the bill was necessary for fair democratic practices.

The opposition decried that the parliamentary process was not followed as there were separate rules for a joint session and a normal session. They claim the government did not have the required 222 votes to pass a law. However, it is unlikely that hue and cry will have no real impact as the opposition had refused to reach a consensus on electoral reforms several times. However, the government should follow due process so that bills are discussed in parliament rather than being hurriedly passed in parliament. 

The government has passed a milestone in passing the legislation but the real challenge lies in ensuring that EVMs are used effectively in the next general elections. This includes addressing the reservation by the ECP and overcoming the logistical and financial challenges. The next elections will be visibly different and the government should make efforts so they are no controversies.

Another crucial milestone passed is allowing overseas Pakistan the right to vote. The prime minister termed them the backbone of the economy and said they have the right to participate in the electoral process. The incumbent government launched the Roshan Digital scheme allowing overseas residents to open bank accounts in Pakistan. They responded by sending over $2bn in remittances every year. The addition of more than nine million voters will certainly have a profound impact on the elections which will benefit the PTI.

The prime minister has fulfilled a vital promise with the passage of the bill. The will prove monumental for the PTI in the next election and will also bury the allegation of rigging which we witness after every election.

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