No mean feat
Despite the various failures and shortcomings of the PPP-led coalition, it goes to the government’s credit that it has managed to take the opposition along in the passage of the 20th Amendment as it did in the case of the two earlier constitutional amendments also. This underscores the fact that historic achievements can be made even by a beleaguered elected government. Also that only a democratic polity can create bridges among adversaries and create favourable conditions for the resolution of conflicts.
Elections in this country have rarely been accepted by the opposition parties without serious reservations. The two usual targets of attack have been the Election Commission and the caretaker setup which are accused of acting as tools in the hands of the executive and intelligence agencies. The EC’s five year long constitutional tenure guarantees that no government can pressurise it to extract decisions of its own liking. This also ensures the Commission’s independence from other powerful institutions. The formula regarding the appointment of the caretaker setup does not recognise any role for the president, which removes another bone of contention. Under the new dispensation, in case the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition fail to agree on the setup, and the parliamentary committee created for the purpose also remains divided, the CEC would nominate the interim body. It would be mandatory for the president to accept the CEC’s advice. While the opposition in the NA has fully endorsed the provisions and has praised the PM for his role in creating a consensus, there is a need on the part of the opposition outside the parliament also to accept the amendment with good grace. There are fears, however, that the conventional power brokers might use some of their protégés to challenge the historic electoral reforms.
While the EC has been given autonomy and more powers, its responsibilities have also increased. It should now be seen to be exerting its clout to ensure free and fair elections. Existing election rules that often remain unimplemented have to be enforced. Constituencies have to be re-demarcated to remove the perception of gerrymandering. Above all, extraneous forces have to be stopped from interfering in the electoral process.