EDITORIAL: With the benefit or wisdom of hindsight, the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) leadership must have realized the gravity of the blunder that it had committed by dissolving the assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
It was in power in both the provinces and facing no threat of vote of non-confidence against its chief ministers. But the leadership erroneously perceived that premature dissolution of the provincial assemblies would precipitate circumstances that would justify general elections before the due date and thus help it regain power at the Centre. But that hasn’t happened so far.
Not only is the timely conduct of elections to the dissolved assemblies uncertain, there is also every possibility that these may not take place before the due date for the general election in the country. The situation, therefore, underscores the need for closely examining the outcomes of the three crucial meetings in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday.
Given that the PTI-led political opposition has been a consistent sceptic of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja’s impartiality, not only did he readily express his determination to ensure that these two elections are held on the dates conveyed to the ECP, he also said he wanted the credibility of electoral outcome to be above board.
And for that he wanted the services of agencies, which should help him ensure that the planned elections are held in a secure and friction-free ambience. Therefore, he had meetings with defence and police officials.
He also met KP governor Haji Ghulam. However, the feedback he received from them drastically fell short of his expectations.
The KP governor did meet the ECP members and apprised them of the security situation and said the polling cannot take place in his province during Ramazan.
In other words, he did not officially communicate to them any date for polls. But as he came out of the meeting, he told media persons that he had fixed May 28 for KP assembly polls. And this was all the more perplexing as before coming to the commission he had a meeting President Arif Alvi, who reportedly had advised him to implement the Supreme Court’s order in letter and spirit wherein the governor had been directed to consult ECP and forthwith appoint the date.
Moreover, backtracking on his decision to hold elections on May 28, the governor yesterday called for addressing ‘key challenges’ before a ‘new’ date for the polls is announced.
In a letter to the ECP, he instead of conveying the date said KP remained an epicenter of terrorism due to long-drawn war against terrorism and security-centric policies.
Be that as it may, as for the meeting with the officials of defence ministry they conveyed to the ECP that the security of borders and country is army’s top priority and that due to the current situation it was presently unavailable for election duty anywhere.
The police officials too declined the ECP’s request, citing the deteriorating law and order situation in Punjab and the ongoing campaign against dacoits in province’s kutcha areas.
The judiciary has already told ECP that given the enormity of pending cases in lower courts, it cannot spare the judicial staff and so is the case with teachers to man the polling booths and stations because currently 40,000 teachers are performing the digital census duty and may also be needed next month for matriculation examinations.
It is, therefore, increasingly clear that the non-availability of manpower to help ensure free, fair and impartial elections would force the concerned quarters to either delay or postpone polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa so fingers crossed.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023