Calls for reform of the political finance system, including oversight, have grown since the findings of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s investigation into the PTI foreign funding affair became public. However, while many of the most important voices making these calls may appear to have a vested interest in the game – such as the political rivals of the PTI – the truth is that rumors have also surrounded the finances of most other major parties. policies. Contrast that with the political and other activists who have been calling for reform for decades but have been largely ignored by the powers that be. Clean elections and good governance should not be partisan issues. Unfortunately, failure to update laws on election and political party financing, or even to enforce existing ones, is a collective failure of political parties and the bureaucracy, as it deprives citizens of their basic rights, while ensuring that genuinely independent candidates from middle class or poor backgrounds simply cannot compete with the big guns. But that may be the point: to secure the positions of the ruling elite while ensuring that they stay in line. Over the weekend, open government and electoral transparency advocates from the Free and Fair Electoral Network, or Fafen, also spoke of the need for political parties inside and outside parliament to strengthen regulations to limit the ability of big spenders to virtually buy elections, warning that free spending without consequences denies citizens the right to run for office and skews the results in favor of big spenders, whether they are backed by billionaires or small individual donors. Weaknesses in the system begin with the current iteration of the law governing elections – the Elections Act 2017. The law is surprisingly weak in its allocations of regulatory power and can be directly blamed – along with its authors – for allowing the general 2018 the election to turn into the biggest rounds of spending polls in the country’s history, even when inflation is taken into account. The by-elections and local body polls conducted since then have also seen unprecedented spending, effectively consolidating power among the ultra-rich, whether directly as candidates or through the political parties they fund. Heavily enforced spending caps can be problematic in larger constituencies and areas with higher advertising costs, but they’re still probably the easiest place to start. Donor transparency is another area that needs to be explored. This could be done through a public database that parties and candidates must regularly update with each political donation received and details of how the funds are spent. The same goes for private groups and individuals funding political campaigns. Criminal sanctions, as long as applied fairly, would be more than enough to change the face of Pakistan’s election campaign, certainly making it cleaner and hopefully a bit more representative. Published in The Express Tribune, August 11, 2022. Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces. .