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EDITORIAL: What could possibly be the reason for the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) initial silence after the dissolution of the National Assembly, then a meeting of the chief election commissioner with the Chief Justice of Pakistan for almost three hours and then announcement of timelines for the exercise of delimitation of constituencies that goes beyond the constitutionally stipulated period for holding of general elections and ignoring to announce the election date even now?

Everybody’s already pretty much digested the fact that it will not be held within the constitutionally required time period.

In fact, there’s enough in just the sequence of events, especially the last-minute announcement about the census by the former PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) government, to suggest that this delay is by design. Still, now that we know that the polls will be held after necessary delimitations – also a constitutional necessity – why hasn’t the Commission drawn a timetable with a firm date for holding of lections even this late in the day?

Who is responsible for the rumour mill going into overdrive, suggesting that ECP’s delaying tactics are part of a concerted effort to keep the caretaker setup in place indefinitely? Such chatter has been doing the rounds for quite some time.

And a lot of fears were indeed confirmed when former PM Shehbaz Sharif suddenly pulled the condition about the new census out of the hat just days before pulling the plug on his government. Now the same voices, who’ve already been proved right once, are warning of further delays and ECP’s silence isn’t exactly helping its own position.

Also, why hasn’t anybody wondered why the prime minister dissolve the National Assembly just days before its life was to end.

On the face of it the outgoing government leveraged a constitutional provision that forces ECP to take three instead of two months to arrange the next general election; even though it wasn’t exactly a surprise because the government had telegraphed its plans to wrap up early, months in advance. But what difference does one month make when the census and delimitations have already pushed the election into the first quarter of next year?

Nobody needs to be reminded that the country is gripped by several crises at once. And the state needs a stable government with a popular mandate before it can even begin drawing up long-term plans to deal with all the economic, political and security-related issues it faces.

Delaying the election at this point, that too for no constitutionally justifiable reason, only deepens the element of uncertainty that has already cost the country so much.

Institutions exist to serve the people, after all – so says the constitution itself – yet here we have both parliament and judiciary courting controversies, politicians who cannot see beyond their own noses, and an election commission that can neither hold elections nor conduct delimitations in a transparent and timely manner.

Despite being very disappointed by a clueless ECP, CJP (Chief Justice of Pakistan) Umar Ata Bandial observed that the Commission still had “enough time to conduct delimitations in a transparent manner”. But that much is already known. It is its self-induced paralysis that is at the heart of this mystery. What could possibly motivate ECP into not doing its own job, which is to conduct elections?

And why can nobody, including the highest court in the land, untie this Gordian knot? Even more importantly, why must ordinary Pakistanis be made helpless onlookers as the country’s democratic and constitutional fabric is torn apart in a fight for the spoils between the mighty and powerful, and then also be made to pay the price for it?

At this point, ECP holds the key to the forward march that Pakistan so desperately needs. Former senate chairman, Raza Rabbani of Pakistan People’s Party, said it best that “the clock is ticking on the constitutional requirement under Article 224”. ECP must immediately announce the election schedule and then stick to it.

The Supreme Court Bar Association has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking its indulgence to ensure holding of elections by the ECP within the constitutionally stipulated period of ninety days. The verdict of the court will determine the future shape of things to come.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Aug 21, 2023 02:28pm
The probability of forthcoming economic chaos, which will have huge implications for people and the economy, is most likely to happen if the unprofessional stay the course.
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