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EDITORIAL: Good of ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) to crush all talk of any possible delay in the February general elections just when the rumour mill was going into overdrive. With the election just over two months away, this is when it’s natural for all sorts of speculation to muddy the waters.

But since some media houses also joined the chorus about the delay, with some of their anchorpersons going the extra mile to spread confusion on their viral YouTube channels, ECP was forced to put its foot down and rule out any irregularities.

It’s also decided to approach Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) for necessary action against channels and journalists that have been spreading misleading reports without any evidence.

This should be a wake-up call for some of the self-professed leading lights of the journalism profession as well. For, it has become regular practice to spread hearsay as substantiated news. And, given the extraordinary reach of high-voltage social media outlets, a lot of fake news is accepted and propagated as authentic information long before credible authorities are able to set the record straight.

Regrettably, this has been the dominant trend of the last few years, at least. So, hopefully, Pemra will not only help clear the air about the election and filter all the noise from the news, but it will also take the kind of punitive action that will remind journalists how to do their basic day job.

Besides, just the fact that ECP has issued the final list of constituencies after delimitations, the final pre-requisite for the polls, ought to be enough to settle all controversy surrounding the matter.

TV channels and media houses hungry for ratings would get more attention if they concentrated on the election itself, especially how different parties are offering solutions to Pakistan’s many problems through their manifestos.

They should also remind politicians hunting for votes that the trials and tribulations of the last few years have made voters much smarter. They now understand their biggest problems, and will need concrete plans of action for their votes.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t be tempted to take time out of their disturbed lives – buried under record inflation and unemployment – and participate in the election if they would have to suffer the same fate regardless of the party in power.

Unfortunately, it’s not just some media outlets that have made it something of a mission to misinform the public. Certain political parties, too, left no stone unturned in trying to vilify ECP and strip it of all credibility in an exercise that later proved to be futile. Yet now, with so little time before the election, it’s best to set the record clear and get on with the business at hand.

The next stop is definitely one of the most important general elections in the country’s history. It needs political stability not just to run the state properly, but also to meet an essential pre-condition for continued financial assistance from international institutions and sovereigns.

All our usual donors, from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to friendly countries that park billions in the State Bank of Pakistan to keep us solvent, have made it abundantly clear that no further help shall be forthcoming without a stable democratic government.

And that can only be assured by a free and fair election. So, whatever points those casting doubts on this process are scoring for themselves, their parties or their channels, they are bringing great harm to the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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