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After months of political wrangling and uncertainty, former bureaucrat Jalal Sikander Sultan was sworn as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) making the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) completely functional once again.
A bipartisan committee headed by human rights minister Shireen Mazari showed surprising consensus to finally agree on selecting the former bureaucrat to head the apex electoral body. The committee also decided on the vacant slots for Sindh and Balochistan members after several months of back and forth. The manner in which the name was agreed showed that parliamentary matters can be mutually decided.
The selection of a former bureaucrat marks a change as previously retired judges were selected for the post. Sultan is known as an honest and upright officer who retired only a couple of months ago as railways secretary. The opposition, particularly the PML-N, also agreed on his nomination, saying that he worked in Punjab for a long time and hoped that he would ensure transparency in the next elections.
The new CEC has immense responsibilities ahead of him to revamp the electoral body. The political structure is still in doldrums and electoral reforms have not been completely implemented. Every election has witnessed severe irregularities and discrepancies showing the fragile image of the ECP. The last general elections were considered as the most transparent and different from previous ones owing to different amendments.
The 2013 general elections were mired in controversy over election manipulation and rigging while no party accepted it as free and fair. There was an improvement in the 2018 elections but a failure of the Results Transmission System (RTS) created another controversy. It will be the responsibility of the new CEC to make the election process more transparent and different from the previous contests.
The ECP should enforce bio-metric voting system in the next election rather than the archaic paper ballots. To do this, the ECP must emulate models of successful countries and engage with experts to come up with an effective mechanism to remove inconsistencies and rigging.  The local body elections can serve as a test case before the general elections. Since the CEC is now effective, it needs to be seen how this will be handled.
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