22nd Amendment to erode ECP
THE National Assembly, on Thursday, demonstrated indecent una nimity over the issue of manifold increase in pay, allowances, perks and privileges of the Parliamentarians, showing how they can unite when it comes to safeguarding of personal interests. This harmony was rare as members representing conflicting interests seldom agree on issues that pertain to welfare of the masses or resolution of their problems.
However, more important than that, the House also passed, within minutes, an amendment in the Constitution envisaging so-called reforms in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). No doubt, 22nd Amendment in the Constitution was recommended by the bipartisan Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms and that is why it was rushed through the NA and is expected to be cleared by the upper House as well but the history would tell that the Amendment would do more harm than help. There has been a public debate on the need to make the ECP truly independent enabling it to hold elections in fair and transparent manner but ironically the modus operandi suggested by the 22nd Amendment for the purpose is reflective of lack of broader vision as the reforms centred only on the criteria and procedure for appointment of CEC and Members of the Commission. There was hardly anything wrong with the existing provisions on the matter. Chief Election Commissioner should have been a judge of the Supreme Court or is qualified to become a judge of the apex court and this added prestige and respect to the office of the CEC and the Commission itself. By adding the proviso that he could be a senior bureaucrat or technocrat, we have reverted back to some extent to pre-1973 position when CECs were required to be taken from the civil service. This is unlikely to resolve the issues and controversies concerning ECP and we might end up in more controversies after general elections of 2018. What we need is a financially and administratively independent Election Commission like the one in neighbouring India to ensure genuinely fair elections.