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EDITORIAL: ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) has given a date for completion of fresh delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies – 14 December 2023 – but for some reason it’s still not given a timetable for the election itself.

For the last few days ECP has been citing articles of the constitution that force it to complete the delimitations before holding the election for anybody to listen, including a reported meeting between the CEC (Chief Election Commissioner) and CJP (Chief Justice of Pakistan).

But since it can at best push the elections till the delimitations are complete, for which it has now announced a date, why must the election itself continue to be shrouded in so much uncertainty?

The best we can tell for now – that too based on chatter and rumours – is that the poll might be considered sometime in February. That is, in fact, as long as ECP or any other power can kick this particular can down the road because, with Senate elections due in March, a lack of elected national and provincial assemblies would rob the upper house of its electoral college and plunge the entire country into a fresh, and much deeper, constitutional crisis.

It’s interesting, though, that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has challenged the approval of the digital census itself through a petition filed with the top court. It believes the CCI (Council of Common Interests) violated the constitution and CCI Rules, 2010 because the Aug 5 meeting that unanimously approved the census included two caretaker chief ministers — from Punjab and KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) — which is not how it is supposed to be. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the court puts this argument under the microscope.

Also, an incensed PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) has rejected the argument about delimitations, terming it a ploy to delay the election, and planned to challenge it in court. The party firmly believes that the entire drama aimed at delaying the elections, perhaps indefinitely, is aimed only at keeping it out of power. It seems to have no doubt that the fallout from the May 9 incident did not dent its popularity among voters.

While this claim can only be termed a conjecture till an election is held, the party is right to point out that it cannot really be tested till people are finally called for the vote. And it is every party’s right, especially one that thinks it is on the winning path, to ask authorities to stick to the constitutionally mandated time period.

So we continue to have more intrigue and still no definite time or date for the election. This is worrying, because the chatter that there could be further delays – beyond even February – has not stopped.

And with all sorts of speculation proving true so far, there’s no telling what really lies in the future. This space has always warned that delaying elections like this amounts to the kind of fiddling with the constitution that can have only harmful consequences for the country.

Now all eyes are on ECP as it goes about completing the delimitations before mid-December. At some point in this exercise it will have to go further and give a specific date for the election. The more it delays the announcement, the more it will give weight to allegations that it is part of a bigger game that needs elections to be delayed further and then more cases will pile up in the courts.

It is in the interest of everybody, ECP included, that there is no further controversy in the matter of the next general election in the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Aug 22, 2023 03:05pm
They are now masters, not servants. If the deafening silence by political parties on the subject as well as ''jalsas'' is a clear indication that all is well in the uncertain land of opportunity. Let's enjoy the calm before the storm or is it a smoke screen?
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