Making general election transparent
FORMER Canadian prime minister Joe Clarke, heading a multinational delegation on a six-day visit to Pakistan five to six months ahead of the general election, had a clear agenda on his mind: pre-election assessment of electoral process, electoral disputes, political trends and problems facing the Election Commission of Pakistan and other stakeholders.
In his key-note on the conclusion of his recent visit, he gave mixed ideas on the upcoming general election with some suggestions about how to overcome administrative lacunae he observed in the ECP.
He was to note the electoral process and its weaknesses, and also to applaud the ECP on progress, if any, it has made to ensure fair play the in general election next year.
Looking carefully the observations the former premier made, one could assume that the coming general election is not something to be called ‘perfect’.
“If you ask they are satisfactory or credible, yes they are. Are they perfect, no, they aren’t,” was the answer Mr Clarke gave to a journalist who asked how he saw the coming general election and the ECP’s preparedness.
What he emphasised most on was the political affiliations of local staff of the ECP and its questionable partiality and laxity in ensuring the political parties adhere to the code of conduct set by the ECP.
Assuming that the ECP is trying to focus on the observations made by the delegation makes some potential arrangements, it will take it years to change the psyche deeply embedded in the minds of its local staff.
Impartiality is an institution which calls for two factors to be fulfilled prior to its materialisation: satisfaction and knowledge.
Satisfaction of all basic needs is only possible when a handsome amount is offered to the ECP staff, something not possible, apparently at least until the general election’s approach.
The other factor being knowledge can also lead a person to be impartial and honest as far as the national cause is concerned. I cannot argue how many heads of district offices of the ECP are able to write a paragraph in simple English free of grammatical mistakes.
Knowledge here ought not to be confined to the knowledge of English which, of course, changes your exposure to the outside world. Knowledge also means knowledge of laws, rules and problem-solving techniques concerning the organisation you work for.
Many of local staff members at the ECP are promotees with little understanding of constitutional amendments to election laws and regretfully no knowledge of or concern for the ‘code of conduct’, which is always set by the ECP before any elections.
In the absence of both the factors mentioned above, talk of the ECP staff being impartial seems impractical, leaving the only option for the ECP staff to be in association with political tycoons.
The judiciary, realising the dire need of increase in wages for its officials, took a strong action in the right direction and as such increased the salaries of its staff members manifold. Why not our chief election commissioner adopts appropriate measures on the pattern of the judiciary in this regard to tackle declining job performance attitude of the ECP staff?
The 13 recommendations forwarded by Joe Clarke are sufficient for reinvigorating the ECP and making the coming polls greatly credible and transparent. What remains to be done is for the chief election commissioner to take all necessary measures mandatory for ensuring his local staff is self-esteemed and impartial in performing their duties, which have a lot to be done with promoting a genuine democracy in Pakistan.