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EDITORIAL: Since the caretaker government was formed tasked with neutrality in overseeing general elections, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is having a hard time to reorient itself with the new ‘realities’ and re-establish its democratic credentials.

At its Central Executive Committee meeting on Thursday, presided by party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the committee expressed concern over the induction in the caretaker cabinet of three known loyalists of its former PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) ally, the PML-N, two of them ex bureaucrats Fawad Hassan Fawad and Ahad Cheema, as well as a computer scientist Dr Umar Saif, who is already serving as interim minister for science and technology.

If that says something about the impartiality of the caretaker setup, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is reported to have sent a letter - in an apparent move to avoid further erosion of public trust in it - to the interim government questioning its neutrality, saying it appears to be aligned with the opponents of the jailed former prime minister Imran Khan.

“It is a general perception”, added the letter, “that the caretaker government is a continuation of the previous [PDM coalition] government.”

Yet, the electoral body having failed to hold elections to the dissolved Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies within the constitutional mandate timeframe is now similarly reluctant to hold general elections on time.

The PPP meeting complained about what it called an uneven playing field in the run-up to the polls but opted to dither on the election date, asking the ECP to hold them as soon as possible, “if not within the 90 days constitutional limit”.

This betrays a sense of ease over whatever prevents the ECP from following through on its responsibility of holding free, fair and timely elections.

Speaking at a presser, PPP information secretary Shazia Marri said that her party acknowledges that delimitation of constituencies after the new census is essential, but effort should be made not to violate other constitutional provisions for one (time limit set for polls), at least any violation should be as little as possible.

Critics though have taken issue with this line of reasoning for giving leeway to a constitutional violation, arguing that the PDM government is to blame for delaying the formal approval of census results by the Council of Common Interests (CCI), and that the CCI which ‘unanimously’ endorsed the digital 2023 census, comprised representatives of two caretaker governments who lacked the legitimacy to sit in that forum, and hence the elections should be held on the basis of previous census.

The PPP information secretary also objected to the November 6 election date proposed by President Arif Alvi, claiming that as per the party’s legal experts he does not have the power to suggest the polling date.

It is clear, however, to anyone who has read the Constitution that the President has the prerogative to give an election date in case the president dissolves the National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister, as in the present instance.

The naysayers use the Election Act to substantiate their contention, disregarding the fact that a simple law cannot override the Constitution.

It is imperative therefore that all political parties and the ECP show some respect to the supreme law of the land, ending the prevailing political uncertainty and the dark clouds it casts over the country’s crisis-ridden economic landscape.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Sep 17, 2023 01:27pm
The actions of the government and the ECP are of no importance to anyone anymore. They cannot hope or pretend that all is well in the realm of governance, it will come forth very soon.
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