State of electoral reforms: ‘ECP achieves 76pc of strategic plan’
LAHORE, Feb 7: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has achieved 76 per cent of its strategic plan to ensure free and fair elections, says a monthly report of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development (Pildat).
Presenting the report ‘State of Electoral Reforms in Pakistan’, Pildat Executive Director Ahmad Bilal Mahboob called the progress satisfactory, though not ideal. Given the issues involved in the reform and implementation of the plan, the progress made by the ECP should only be appreciated, he said.
He predicted some of the issues that could create some doubts on the ECP include “aspirations cast on its composition by some political and non-political actors”.
Though the matter is going to court, but its repercussions are being felt, and gaining some momentum. The other problem would be date of elections, as national and provincial assemblies have different expiry dates and different political parties sticking to them. Holding elections on different dates include huge administrative expenditure and psychological impact for voters. How these issues are handled would be seen in the next few weeks, he said.
Former Punjab governor Shahid Hamid said that the crisis in Balochistan also represented a challenge. With governor’s rule in place, the provincial assembly cannot be dissolved.
Without having a leader of the house and a leader of the opposition, the caretaker set-up cannot be created. Thus, the government, along with the ECP, has to deal with the Balochistan governance issue before April 8 — expiry date for the assembly.
Another issue that can bedevil even the post-election scenario is that of directives of the Supreme Court, like first past the pole and securing minimum 50 per cent of votes. These issues have to be clarified before elections otherwise a plethora of writs could follow the results asking the courts to annul the results as their directions were ignored. The National Assembly should take them up, and decide what can be done and what cannot be right away.
Journalist Arif Nizami said “uncertainties” were being planted to scare everyone. This was a deliberate attempt and everyone – the media and people – must realise these facts. The entire nation was gearing for elections but a few political and some non-political elements had got engaged themselves in nit-picking. The ECP was created through a political consensus and enjoys popular respect. There are forces that think that if fair and free elections are held, their grip on the country would be weakened. That is precisely why chaos is being created in the country. But it needs to be ignored, not promoted by all – especially by the media and political stakeholders.
Dr Pervez Hasan, of the Citizens Forum, said there were so many positives as far the holding of fair and free elections was concerned. There existed an independent and empowered election commission in the country. The independent judiciary was there to protect the electoral process. Barring a few voices, there was near national consensus in favour of transparent polls – with all major political parties owning the ECP and pinning their hopes on his office. To top it all, the media and civil society were keeping very scrupulous watch on the entire process in run up to elections. The electoral list had been improved and so were powers of the Election Commission. All these factors created optimism about fair and free polls.
Instead of finding faults, every one should join efforts for elections and let the nation choose their leaders transparently, he concluded.