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EDITORIAL: Now that the road to elections in Punjab and KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) has finally been cleared of all potholes, it is fast becoming clear that top politicians and political parties had only themselves to blame for the unfortunate and unfriendly impasse that prompted the Supreme Court’s suo motu action.

It would have been better if the top court hadn’t courted needless controversy of its own as it went about settling a crucial constitutional debate, no doubt, but what matters now is that nobody can create any further doubts about when the polls will take place; and also who will decide the date whenever such situations arise in the future.

All the politicians have to do is stick to their most basic job and simply follow the constitution at all times to spare the public all the annoying spillovers of such political wrangling. There should never have been any fuss about dissolution of said assemblies in the first place; or, for that matter, who ordered them and at whose behest.

The constitution is clear that the leader of the house can give it the axe as and when he pleases and under whatever sort of advisement he chooses. Just like there is no ambiguity whatsoever about the 90-day stipulation.

The government’s reference to previous instances where it had to be overrun – aftermath of former PM Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, earthquakes and floods – is improper because it’s one thing to have to delay in polls after dates have been fixed and quite another to find excuses to avoid setting them altogether.

This situation does, however, push the country into fresh constitutional ground since the document requires caretaker setups in all places at the time of the general election, which will not be possible now.

But rather than burdening the courts again with such matters it is the responsibility of the political elite to settle them in parliament. And that, of course, is not going to be possible until and unless there are proper, representative administrations in the centre and all the provinces.

It also does not behoove the state to hide behind issues like the security threat and insufficient finances because an expressed inability to carry out its basic constitutional requirements would, other things remaining the same, tantamount to admitting that it cannot function. And that is an extremely serious matter.

Nobody needs to be reminded that the overall political and social atmosphere has never been as bitter as it is now.

Therefore, it is in the interest of all stakeholders, especially the principal political parties, that they agree on a civilised code of conduct while there is still time.

It would be an utter shame if these elections, which have been made possible after so much drama, also become controversial and lead to a further breakdown of the system. The politicians’ ugly battle for power has caused enough harm to the state and the people.

They can at least display the maturity needed to work out a mechanism that will make all of them accept the outcome.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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