Poll postponement ruled out: CEC reposes confidence in commission members
ISLAMABAD, Feb 7: Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim put to rest on Thursday rumours about delay in upcoming elections by categorically stating that there was no room for postponement of polls.
Postponement of polls would harm democracy in the country, he said, adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan was moving in the right direction and would continue to do so.
Speaking at a special session held with representatives of 13 opposition parties to discuss the charter of demands they had submitted to the ECP three days ago, Justice Ebrahim noted that free and fair polls were essential for the country’s future. He assured them that every step would be taken to ensure free and fair elections. All decisions at the ECP were taken with consensus, he added.
Karachi has become a problem city, and maintaining law and order is the responsibility of the government. “Unless law and order is maintained, everything will be lost,” he said.
Also on Thursday, the CEC issued a statement in which he categorically rejected a demand made by some political parties for dissolution of the commission and said that appointments of all members of the ECP and that of his own had been made in complete compliance with all constitutional provisions. He said they were all retired judges of superior courts and had absolutely no political affiliation.
“It is pertinent to note that none of the attacks against us gives any details about our so-called political affiliations and only makes vague, unsubstantiated and baseless allegations. This appears to be a deliberate attempt to malign the ECP for political gains,” he said.
Justice Ebrahim broke his silence at a time when the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf of Imran Khan and Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of the PML-Q had supported Dr Tahirul Qadri’s demand for dissolution of the ECP, citing procedural gaps in the process of appointment of the CEC and members of the commission.
But what appears to have prompted the CEC to come up with an unusual statement was a petition filed by Dr Tahirul Qadri in the Supreme Court seeking reconstitution of the commission.
The timing of the ‘campaign’ against the ECP has worried some opposition parties which see it as a deliberate attempt to delay polls and install, through unconstitutional means, a caretaker set-up for a long period.
Justice Ebrahim said criticism of ECP members was most unfortunate because the present government’s term was to expire in only six weeks and the country was on the verge of a smooth democratic transition for the first time. “I appreciate that this is the nature of politics, but personal attacks on our integrity and independence without any basis whatsoever is unacceptable and will only serve to dent public confidence in the electoral process.”
He said stakeholders had the right to criticise the working of the ECP which always welcomed suggestions from the quarters concerned. “The ECP has never been so open and transparent as it is presently. We have met leaders of all parties, NGOs, government officials, bureaucrats and foreign dignitaries to continuously learn and address their concerns.”
He said the ECP had taken notice of allegations of pre-poll rigging and imposed unprecedented bans on advertisements using public money, doling out jobs for votes and diversion of funds by the federal and provincial governments to please constituents on the eve of elections.
He said electoral rolls had been prepared in collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for the first time which would curb duplication. Legislative proposals have been made to increase women voters’ participation, ensure secrecy of ballot papers and boost scrutiny measures. Action has been taken against parliamentarians holding dual nationality and fake degrees. The number of personnel and security at polling stations has been raised. Other measures and proposals to ensure free and fair elections are constantly being considered and implemented.
“I have full faith in the integrity, independence and competence of all ECP members as well as its staff. We have only one objective — free, fair and transparent elections. I only request that all parties and leaders assist us in achieving this dream instead of making false and baseless allegations,” Justice Ebrahim said.
Thirteen political parties, including the PML-N, Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-F, Sunni Tehrik and nationalist parties from Sindh recently held a rally in Islamabad in support of the ECP and expressed their complete confidence in the commission.
Briefing reporters, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said representatives of these parties had discussed with the commission their charter of demands and expressed dissatisfaction over the ongoing re-verification campaign in Karachi and suggested that voters of the city should be enrolled at their permanent addresses.
The ECP agreed to the suggestion and said it would be presented to the Supreme Court.
DUAL NATIONALITY: Meanwhile, the ECP disposed of on Thursday a disqualification reference against a large number of members of the Punjab Assembly members filed by former ambassador Asif Ezdi accusing them of holding dual nationality.
Twenty-eight of the 35 MPAs who had been issued notices appeared in person while five were represented by their counsel. Except for two, all others dismissed the allegations as baseless.
Jamil Ashraf was the only MPA who admitted that he was holding dual nationality, but said he had already resigned and elections for his seat were held on Dec 4.
Tahir Ali Javed, who has also resigned, did not turn up.
When Asif Ezdi said he had sent information to the ECP on the basis of news reports, the commission said it could not take action on the basis of news reports and disposed of the reference.