ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has asked the Chief Election Commissioner to invite all the Opposition parties for consultation to achieve a consensus-based electoral reforms plan. In a letter written to Sikandar Sultan Raja, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Shehbaz Sharif held that the Election Commission of Pakistan was responsible for holding free, fair and impartial elections in the country. “It is thus the responsibility of the ECP to hold an inclusive dialogue with all political parties in the country on the subject of electoral reforms. I urge you to invite all Opposition parties for consultation to achieve a consensus-based reforms plan, which can then be presented before the Parliament for passage, to ensure that future elections are fair, transparent and reflect the genuine will of the electorate,” he said in the letter. Bangladesh seeks UN intervention to end Rohingya crisis He said in view of the complaints of rigging in the 2018 elections, there is a dire need for evolving a national consensus on electoral reforms to ensure that next general elections are held in fair, free and transparent manner, and without any interference. “The present government’s unilateral actions to force its electoral reforms agenda without any consultation with the stakeholders, which conflicts with many Constitutional provisions, will make further elections controversial,” he said. He said the Election commission of Pakistan has itself expressed serious concerns regarding the recent election bills ‘bulldozed’ through the National Assembly in an objectionable manner. He said that any election-related legislation must be based on broad-based consensus. “For meaningful electoral reforms, institutions have to ensure stakeholders’ input and ownership. The spirit of upholding the Constitution must be at the centre of the reforms plan,” he added. Israel to send 1M vaccine doses to Palestinian Authority in swap deal The government is determined to put in place reforms in the electoral system through the use of technology to bring transparency and credibility to the elections and strengthen democracy. PM Imran Khan a few weeks back had tweeted, “Our govt is determined & we will put in place reforms in our electoral system through the use of technology to bring transparency & credibility to our elections & strengthen our democracy”. He said unfortunately no substantive reforms were put in place. “Technology & use of Electronic Voting Machines are the only answer to reclaim credibility of elections. I invite the Opposition to sit with us & select from EVM models we have available to restore our elections credibility,” he added. In May, the government unveiled 49-point electoral reforms, suggesting a series of amendments to the Constitution, laws and the Election Act 2017 as part of its electoral reform agenda in order to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the future and end the controversy and allegations of rigging forever. Pakistan army to modernise Artillery corps: COAS However, the Opposition parties have been accusing the government of trying to maneuver the upcoming general elections through the reforms. On the other hand, the ECP has also expressed its reservations over some clauses of the electoral reforms bill passed by the National Assembly. In a Press release issued a few days back, the ECP expressed severe concerns over voting rights for overseas Pakistanis as well as use of Electronic Voting Machines. The ECP also rejected the amendment that changes the present practice in which NADRA sends data to ECP for registration of NIC holders as voters, and now proposes that the electoral roll will be the same as registration ID data of NADRA. The ECP says this amendment shall lead to the shifting of power of registration to NADRA whereas this is an exclusive power of ECP under Article 219 of the Constitution. ECP said it cannot support the amendment in the new bill that states that the order of priority of candidates on reserved seats submitted by political parties can be changed within three days after the elections. Sindh, Punjab facing shortage of vaccines It says this will make it impossible for the commission to declare results in 14 days after the polling day as required by Article 224 of the Constitution. It is to mention here that the Opposition parties have been rejecting any offer from the government for consultations over the electoral reforms.