22nd Amend­ment to erode ECP

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

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.

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