- CEC’s term’s end might precipitate crisis
The Chief Election Commissioner’s term is expiring this Deceember. Normally, this should be so routine that a successor should already have been agreed on. After all, the smooth functioning of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a basic pillar of the state and the constitutional dispensation, and in some respects, its head is one of the most important persons in the country. And the date of his retirement was known at the time of his appointment, so there has been ample time for the process of carrying out his appointment. The danger of his post not being filled has arisen because the two members of the Commission who retired in January have not been replaced.
This failure has not been because of laziness, but because of a deadlock in the 12-member bipartisan committee tasked with ECP appointments, which last met a month ago. The deadlock caries over from the refusal of the Prime Minister to consult with the Leader of the Opposition in person, and his attempt to do so by letter instead. The committee’s failure to evolve a consensus resulted in a vote, which was tied. The Constitution has no further procedure, and the idea floating around, that the matter be referred to the Supreme Court, is merely to drag it into what is essentially a political matter, and one in which past experience shows, it will be accused of partisanship.
It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of the ECP. It will conduct as many by-elections as are needed until the next general election, which is due in 2023, as well as that general election itself, and the 2021 Senate elections. Also, because ours is a parliamentary system, it has to be always ready for a general election. Not only must all parties have confidence in the people making it up, but it must exist. The ECP cannot be allowed to lapse because members are not appointed, in turn because two adults refuse to talk to each other. It is high time advisers tell those whose egos are causing this crisis, to behave like adults and carry out the necessary consultations.