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EDITORIAL: A lengthy discussion at a seminar arranged by Pildat (Pakistan Institution of Legislative Development) on Tuesday — titled: How prepared is the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) to hold a free and fair general election? – dispelled all doubts, if any still lingered, that while the Commission has made all necessary preparations for a general election in October, it is the ruling coalition that is reluctant to go down that road.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar could at best hope that the vote would be held “soon”, and actually asked participants to “pray” that the government would not have to invoke articles 232 or 234 of the constitution, a clear indication that it was indeed looking for ways to fiddle with the rulebook and extend its tenure beyond October.

Article 232 provides for a “proclamation of emergency on account of war, internal disturbance”, etc., while Article 234 deals with the “power to issue proclamation in case of failure of constitutional machinery in a province”.

Lawmakers from Sindh, on the other hand, also flatly refused to accept the results of the next election because it will be based on the recently concluded census, which they have already rejected as “flawed”. This is another issue that was building for years yet nothing was done to address it.

All this makes very little sense, especially from a legal-constitutional point of view. There is clearly no war or internal disturbance bad enough to call off a mandatory general election. And the only failure of constitutional machinery, in at least two provinces, is that caretaker governments continue to operate despite the expiry of their 90-day tenures. And the only way to deal with this particular problem is also to hold necessary elections.

Therefore, if the government does really choose to delay polls, it will once again have to bend rules and really weasel its way into clinging to power after its term ends.

In fact, if the chatter on the street is true and it is going through all this trouble just to gain more time to improve its electability, which has been badly hurt by PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s) year-long agitation on the streets, then there are even more chances of this being a self-defeating exercise.

For, it is already drawing stiff criticism from all quarters for claiming to lead democracy’s fight against forces of fascism and then going out of its way to unravel the very spirit of representative government. And it’s also giving PTI and other opponents more ammunition to fire at it, which is bound to do its long-term chances more harm than good.

That’s why it made very little sense for Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb to brush away questions about the election by pointing the finger at ECP, since it is the Commission’s constitutional duty to announce the date, when it has already said it is ready and willing while the government continues to kick the can down the road.

Separately, PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman and coalition partner PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) co-chairman Asif Zardari have also hinted at a delay, with all institutions including the Supreme Court helplessly looking on.

Whatever the government is planning will have to be formally announced soon, since its term will end in August. So far, all signs point to more complications and uncertainty because the ruling coalition seems in no mood to comply with the constitution and pack up.

This space has always advocated sticking to the rules and following the constitution in letter and spirit. Therefore it is stressed very strongly, once again, to put all other plans aside and hold the election when it is due – in October.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Jun 19, 2023 09:00pm
If given the right kind of incentive, every bird of colored feathers will flock together. Needless to say, it would be unconstitutional and criminal, when Gestapo-style political virus is spreading all around the country and no one shall be allowed to stand in the path of their plans to live wealthy ever after.
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