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EDITORIAL: “Elections delayed are elections denied” proclaimed PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, ironically enough, at an event celebrating golden jubilee of the Constitution, which has been violated with impunity by all entrusted with the authority to call elections within the constitutionally mandated timeframe.

Urging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to fulfil its legal and constitutional obligation before another institution (the judiciary) orders it to do that, he touched a chord with many saying democracy is “under threat” and the nation is looking towards the judiciary.

He also took the opportunity, though, to reprove the role the judiciary had played in the past as he recalled that dictators abrogated (or overruled) the Constitution, and the institution upheld those actions sometimes in the name of a successful revolution and sometimes in the name of the (so-called) doctrine of necessity.

There are no two opinions on any of this, but the unfortunate reality is also that prominent politicians, some still actively engaged in the political process, played along.

Moving forward, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, is hearing a set of four petitions seeking general elections within the 90-day time limit.

At the outset of the proceedings on Monday, the CJP observed that the Constitution is very clear on the matter of elections, and its provisions should be followed in letter and spirit. Justice Athar Minallah also observed that the language of Article 224(2) was very clear, raising the question whether those responsible for its violation should be identified or not.

As for who was responsible for announcing the election date the petitioners’ counsels pointed the finger in different directions. In truth, both the president and the ECP failed to do their duty.

The Constitution says that in the event the President dissolves the National Assembly on the prime minister’s advice, as in the present instance, he will “appoint” a date for the general elections. But instead of using his prerogative to “appoint” a date, President Arif Alvi “suggested” in a letter to the ECP to hold polls on November 6, which the latter threw out of the window.

Noting that the President failed to fulfil his obligation, the CJP wondered whether a writ could be issued against him for not announcing the election date.

To which the counsel for one of the petitioners, the Supreme Court Bar Association, Abid Zuberi, replied that action could be taken against any person for “failing to fulfil a constitutional responsibility”.

All the petitioners, however, said they had restricted their prayers to the extent of polling date. President Alvi, however, in an interview to a television channel, has clarified that his law ministry advised him that the date is to be given by the Election Commission and that is why he did not give a date.

Apparently realising which way the wind is blowing, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said on Monday, he hoped the ECP would shortly announce the election date — likely to be sometime in January, at least two months past the due date but President Alvi does not see prospects of elections being held in January as stated by him in the television interview.

But there is no prospect of anyone being taken to account for undermining the supreme law of the land.

The least the people of this country expect and deserve is a free, fair and transparent general election.

Bilawal voiced a common concern when he said manipulation in elections is a “great challenge” and that “manipulated power transfer lies at the root of political instability”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Oct 27, 2023 12:22pm
Elections or economy or human rights in Pakistan have nothing to do with the people. This disagreement of share of the pie is between the rich and the powerful, let them handle it themselves, while the people keep suffering for survival.
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