‘Senate has become centre for horse-trading’

ISLAMABAD: Senate has become a centre for horse-trading as some candidates spent millions of rupees to buy votes and get elected, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed these remarks while emphasising the need for electoral reforms on Thursday.

The ex-premier was addressing a seminar hosted by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and the Coalition for Election and Democracy (CED) at a local hotel in Islamabad.

“Reserved seats for women should also be abolished, as those elected on reserved seats aren’t treated equally and lack representative character,” Abbasi stressed. “A better option would be to bind political parties to award a specific percentage of tickets to women for ensuring the increased participation of women in the political system,” he maintained. The former prime minister also questioned the role of the ‘establishment’ in elections. “A democratic system, where there is no sanctity of ballot box, can’t deliver.

How can democracy be fixed if elections are not held with transparency?” questioned Abbasi while addressing the participants of the seminar. “No election was transparent after 1970,” he alleged.

Talking about giving the right to vote to expatriates, he said that they already had the right to vote but they needed to come back and vote during the elections. “Just like people based in Pakistan but living in different cities on the poll day have to come back to their respective constituencies to vote,” he explained. “Our existing system is tested and quite strong, but no system can deliver if there are organised efforts to manipulate it,” he added.

National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Mohsin Dawar, Senator Farhatullah Babar, Senator Taj Haider, Birgit Lamm from Frederich Naumann Foundation (FNF), Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, founding Director of CPDI, election experts and other key stakeholders also attended the session.

MNA Dawar talked about election engineering before election day. “The census in our country is also tempered with, and population of certain areas has not accurately counted,” he claimed. He was of the view that each time a new style of rigging is adopted.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2022.