Pre­par­ing for elec­tions

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Pak­istan's next gen­eral elec­tions are sched­uled to be held on July 25. But will they be held on time? This is the ques­tion now be­ing widely asked in the coun­try fol­low­ing some poll re­lated de­vel­op­ments over the past two weeks. The is­sues that have given rise to the ques­tion re­late to pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion on de­lim­i­ta­tions in a num­ber of districts and in­tro­duc­tion of new nom­i­na­tion pa­pers in ac­cor­dance with the par­lia­ment's de­ci­sion, a move the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan has termed an en­croach­ment on its ju­ris­dic­tion.

As per past ex­pe­ri­ence, a min­i­mum of 25 days are needed to com­plete the process from fil­ing of nom­i­na­tion pa­pers to the dis­play of fi­nal list of can­di­dates. At least seven days are needed for fil­ing of nom­i­na­tion pa­pers, an­other seven days for scru­tiny of pa­pers, three days for fil­ing ap­peals against the de­ci­sion of ROs, seven days for de­cid­ing ap­peals by tri­bunals, one day for with­drawal of can­di­da­ture and the dis­play of fi­nal list the fol­low­ing day. This means that the fi­nal list of can­di­dates should be dis­played be­fore or on June 30 to give 25 clear days for the con­duct of elec­tion cam­paign.

The tar­get can only be achieved if all the hur­dles, in­clud­ing de­lim­i­ta­tions, nom­i­na­tion pa­pers and place­ment of care­taker set­ups in the prov­inces, are over­come dur­ing the next week or so.

The Is­lam­abad High Court, which is presently hear­ing the pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing de­lim­i­ta­tion of con­stituen­cies, has so far de­clared de­lim­i­ta­tions of ten districts in­clud­ing Jhang, Jhelum, Toba Tek Singh, Lower Dir, Ghotki, Ka­sur, Sheikhupura, Kha­ran, Haripur and Ba­hawalpur as void. Once all the pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing the mat­ters re­lat­ing to de­lim­i­ta­tion are de­cided by the Is­lam­abad High Court, these cases are ex­pected to be taken up be­fore the Supreme Court by the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion which is other­wise all pre­pared to hold elec­tions on July 25th.

The with­drawal of the names of care­taker chief min­is­ters of Pun­jab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has fur­ther dark­ened the elec­toral hori­zon. On the other hand, the Balochis­tan home min­is­ter, through a res­o­lu­tion in the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture, has sought de­lay in the elec­tions for a month be­cause of mon­soon and the ab­sence of a large num­ber of Pak­ista­nis from the coun­try for per­form­ing Hajj. A few days ago, MQM's Faisal Sabzwari came up with a sim­i­lar de­mand seek­ing elec­tion post­pone­ment. While the voices from Quetta and Karachi sought de­lay in elec­tions in an un­am­bigu­ous man­ner, the PTI also con­trib­uted to­wards mak­ing the elec­tions doubt­ful by its sur­prise de­ci­sion of with­draw­ing the name of Nasir Khosa for the post of care­taker chief min­is­ter.

The ECP has faced se­vere crit­i­cism in the past for fail­ing to han­dle de­lim­i­ta­tion and re­lated is­sues in an ef­fi­cient and trans­par­ent man­ner. The com­mis­sion fol­lows a pre-set for­mula for the num­ber of Provin­cial and Na­tional Assem­bly seats that a dis­trict is al­lot­ted. How­ever, the fi­nal map­ping done by the ECP within the districts re­mains un­clear and open to con­tro­versy.In all, IHC is hear­ing 108 pe­ti­tions lodged against de­lim­i­ta­tion from Pak­istan Peo­ple's Party, Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Nawaz and Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf. Ac­cord­ing to the pe­ti­tion­ers, a fair po­lit­i­cal ba­sis was not adopted for de­lim­i­ta­tion of con­stituen­cies and rules were bent in many cases to cre­ate ar­ti­fi­cial bound­aries.

Elec­tions in Pak­istan have al­ways been a con­tro­ver­sial af­fair. Af­ter every elec­tion al­le­ga­tions fly about rig­ging, and re­sults are chal­lenged in the court. The up­com­ing elec­tions are es­pe­cially crit­i­cal as tem­pers are high and par­ties have ac­cused each other of re­sort­ing to pre-poll rig­ging and other un­fair means.In this charged at­mos­phere, the ECP will need to ex­er­cise ex­tra care. It must move ex­pe­di­tiously to ad­dress the con­cerns of var­i­ous par­ties re­gard­ing de­lim­i­ta­tion, ac­cep­tance and scru­tiny of nom­i­na­tion pa­pers and con­duct of elec­tion cam­paigns. It should leave no stone un­turned to en­sure the elec­tions are fair and trans­par­ent so that no party has any rea­son to com­plain later on.

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