Pakistan Election Laws and International Standards: A Reference Guide on Legislative Gaps and Vulnerabilities (DRI)

This report identifies areas for reform in Pakistan’s election-related legislation using a framework of international law. International law provides an objective means for identifying how to strengthen legislation and practice. Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010. By ratification of the ICCPR the state of Pakistan committed itself to respect all obligations included in the Covenant. The ICCPR, to which 165 states have acceded, is the main reference of this report; however, other treaties ratified by Pakistan containing commitments relating to civil and political rights are also referred to. Pakistan Election Laws

The report further identifies where there are shortcomings, and makes recommendations for changes in the law accordingly. Shortcomings in practice are only referred to the extent that they inform the need for changes in law. Reforms of Pakistan’s legislation would result in an electoral legal framework that provides for improved election processes as well as compliance with Pakistan’s internationally legally-binding commitments under the ICCPR and other treaties.

Certain areas of election-related law were assessed as inconsistent with Pakistan’s international commitments (in treaties and related documents).

Furthermore, there is a lack of legal provisions to safeguard certain commitments such as:

  • Enhancing transparency of the election administration and electoral processes;
  • Establishing administrative mechanisms for access to remedy;
  • Availability of sex-disaggregated data; and
  • Promoting routine consultations with groups representing women and Persons with Disabilities.

Additionally, certain areas of election-related legislation were identified as vulnerable, where the law is weak and does not strongly provide for compliance with Pakistan’s international commitments. Strengthening the law in these areas could help prevent problems in administrative practice and demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to improved democratic functioning, and strong commitment to fulfilment of human rights obligations. Among various issues detailed in this report; some key issues of vulnerability include the requirement for “presidential approval” in functions of the election administration and the overlapping of judicial and executive functions.

In total, this report makes fifty-three recommendations for reform in Pakistan’s election related legislation. Six recommendations call for a change in the constitution while others refer to changes in the primary legislation. Further changes in the law may also be beneficial, as would changes to administrative practice, but this report is focused mainly on issues related to Pakistan’s legislation providing for compliance with international commitments. Human rights obligations related to elections are the stated aspiration of the Pakistani state; it is therefore necessary to provide for fulfilment of these rights through a strong legal framework for elections.

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