Running away from polls

There are disturbing signs that the government is trying to duck the Punjab and KP polls

The meeting where the Inter-Services Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau and the Counter-Terrorism Departments of the Punjab and KP unburdened themselves with the Election Commission of Pakistan ended with all of them recommending that the polls to the dissolved provincial assemblies should go forward to October, even though the Punjab is supposed to hold polls on April 30, while the KP Governor has still to appoint a date. All agencies agreed that there was too high a terrorist threat for polls to be held. Be that as it may, the ECP has to hold elections, but there was no sign of any indication that the ECP asked for suggestions on how elections are to be held under this threat. There was also no timeline given. The October date seems pulled out of a hat, and there was no indication of what would happen by then, after which elections would be possible.

It was also ironic that the ISI was pointing to the terrorist threat, even though under its previous DG, it is said that Yehrik Taliban Pakistan terrorists were encouraged to move from Afghanistan and settle in KP. The ISI is being viewed by political leaders with suspicion, as it is considered the organization through which political interference has been carried out in the past. Cynics might well say that it wants a postponement so that it can overcome the crimp in its style caused by claims of non-interference, and go back to what it might see as the good old days.

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There are overwhelming political reasons for the present coalition not to opt for elections on time, but that is the way the Constitution is built. The foundation of everything is elections taking place on time. That does not just mean every five years, though that renewal of the mandate is essential. It also means that if there is a premature dissolution, always a a possibility in a parliamentary system, there must be elections held swiftly. Even caretaker governments are not a substitute for elections; even though unelected themselves, their primary task is the holding of elections. There is an increasing suspicion that such apparently positive actions as issuing an election schedule and giving a date, reflect the Election Commission of Pakistan’s desire to comply with the letter of the Supreme Court’s decision mandating the polls, while not obeying it in its spirit.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]


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