The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed changes to the Elections Act, 2017, specifically to sections 57-1 and 58, to give itself more power and to curtail the authority of the president in election matters. Currently, section 57-1 states that the president must announce the date or dates of the general elections after consultation with the ECP. The proposed amendment would change this so that the power to announce the date of the poll solely lies with the ECP, removing the president’s role in this matter.
The objective of this amendment is to authorize the ECP as the sole body to announce the date for general elections. In its present form, section 58 allows the commission to make alterations in the Election Programme announced in that notification for the different stages of the election, and the ECP can issue a fresh Election Programme as may be necessary. The proposed amendment will strengthen the role of the commission and allow it to announce the schedule without any interference.
The amendment aims to remove any ambiguity in changing the election program or issuing a new one. The ECP will be able to change the polls program at various stages and give a new election date and new schedule with written reasons. The ECP argues that it is an autonomous body responsible for conducting fair and transparent elections, and the mandate of the ECP to conduct elections should not be subordinated to anyone.
The ECP has prepared an amendment draft to send to the parliamentary affairs secretary and has also sent a letter to the parliamentary affairs ministry mentioning the reasons behind the changes. The letter stated that according to the Constitution, the ECP had to decide whether the circumstances were fit to hold the elections or not. It complained that the recent judgments of the Supreme Court had deprived the commission of exercising the powers enumerated in Article 218-3.
The proposed changes will remove any ambiguity in election matters and give more power to the ECP. The commission has argued that it is an autonomous body that should be able to conduct fair and transparent elections without any interference from outside sources. It remains to be seen whether these proposed changes will be implemented, but they could potentially have significant implications for future elections in Pakistan.