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EDITORIAL: It’s settled, then. The Election Commission announced the election schedule and filing of nomination papers can commence from today.

Neither cold weather, nor deteriorating security nor, for anybody who still had any doubts, a Lahore High Court decision that was struck down by the Supreme Court will derail the 8 February 2024 general election.

It is ironic, though, that the judiciary was forced to save the election, and therefore the “democratic process”, from itself. And, while it remains to be seen what possessed PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) to petition against appointment of bureaucrats for election duties, when all high court judges had excused their own officers for the job.

For the moment, all speculation about another delay in the election has been crushed, and it is up to ECP to ensure that the exercise is “free and fair”.

That’s a tall order in the best of circumstances, no doubt, but now it’s more important than ever to facilitate a smooth transfer of power, through a credible election, to a government with the “people’s mandate”.

It’s not just necessary for the sake of political stability, but also difficult decisions that must be taken at the very top to save the country from resurgent terrorism and the very real threat of complete economic/financial collapse.

It’s clear that TTP’s (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s) new insurgency will not be controlled by leaning on Afghanistan to shut down its network across the border. Even Islamabad’s warning of “decisive action” fell on deaf ears in Kabul.

Yet a caretaker government, whose only constitutional duty is to ensure elections, can only go so far when it comes to serious cross-border business that could well lead to skirmishes on and around the border; and perhaps beyond. Crushing TTP will, most definitely, involve the kind of rethink that does not fall in the interim setup’s jurisdiction. So, it’s only after the election that the picture will become any clearer.

And, let’s not forget, the enemy’s attacks will not stop just because our political parties are falling all over themselves as they indulge in schoolboy politics to score cheap points over one another.

The economic situation, especially keeping the threat of default in the rear-view mirror, also requires credible elections and a strong government. The IMF’s made it very clear that any post-SBA (Stand-By Agreement) package will need an elected government in place.

And surely nobody, especially the political elite, needs any reminding that the Fund is the only thing standing between Pakistan and sovereign default till we are able to substantially beef up our reserves. This fact alone makes the habit of disputing every little thing about the election process, which is typical of our senior-most politicians, appear in particularly bad taste.

The path to elections has already seen far too many violations of the constitution for the country’s good. Nobody still knows how two provincial governments snatched the right to stay in office beyond the stipulated time frame.

Or, for that matter, why the 90-day constitutional deadline for the National Assembly election was so blatantly trampled upon. It’s a shame that, over the last year, we’ve not only made a mockery of our core institutions and the constitution, but also turned the country itself into the laughing stock of the democratic world.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Dec 20, 2023 10:51am
What elections? They are at best a reflection of the real thing, and the usual crooks swing back to raid the country for 5 years. How different is it from various raiders in the last 500 years? Not very much.
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