Ultimate custodians of the constitution

Early elections only way to stability

The constitution of a country is meant to be a permanent document or a lasting charter and the judicial organ of the government is entrusted with the powers to uphold and   safeguard its sanctity. Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, described the judiciary as the least dangerous branch of the government. He meant that it cannot significantly damage the rights of the citizens. If there is no independent judiciary, there will be arbitrary government.

Obedience to the Constitution under Article 5 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is an inviolable obligation of every citizen and organ of the government. A conscious or deliberate disregard of a constitutional mandate or requirement is nothing short of “subversion” of the Constitution which amounts to “High Treason” under Article 6 of the Constitution. In contemporary Pakistan, the judiciary is playing its parts to preserve the constitution, democracy and the security of the state when faith in country’s all institutions except judiciary has evaporated.

There is so much political turmoil in the country and nothing is being done by our political leaders and other powerful players to address the situation. If democracy has not flourished in this country as was expected, then part of the blame of this malady lies upon the chosen representatives who sit in the parliament. The common man has suffered and continues to suffer on account of the institutions in the country not discharging their responsibilities in accordance with their Constitutional and legal mandate.

With the early dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies, a debate has started in Pakistan over the issue of appointing the date for holding of general elections to the two Provincial Assemblies. The Election Commission of Pakistan and Punjab governor have shirked their constitutional responsibilities by throwing ball in each other’s court. Article 218 entrust the election commission with the following duty: “ it shall be the duty of the Election Commission constituted in relation to an election to organize and conduct and to make arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted, honestly, fairly, and in accordance with law, and that the corrupt practices are guarded”. The constitutional provisions on holding of general elections and the Election Act, 2017 are very clear and unambiguous but the matter was made complicated unnecessarily. The Election Commission was written a letter by the President of Pakistan and the former was reminded its constitutional and statutory duty to announce poll date after consultation with the latter, but the ECP did not act accordingly. Consequently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had to intervened under its suo motu powers and settled the matter with the ruling that it is the President, in consultation of the Election Commission, will appoint the date for the general elections to the Punjab Assembly, if the governor chooses not to dissolve the assembly. In case of KP, it is the governor who would announce the date in consultation with the ECP.

If democracy has not flourished in this country as was expected, then part of the blame of this malady lies upon the chosen representatives who sit in the parliament.

The judiciary being the ultimate custodian of the constitution has to encounter onslaughts on the constitution as the solutions to the constitutional chaos lies to the Supreme Court and High Courts. The constitution was violated during the time of vote of no-confidence against the then Prime Minister Imran Khan when the Deputy- Speaker National Assembly rejected the motion which prompted the former prime minister to dissolve the National assembly. The August Court took the suo motu and declared the deputy speaker ruling not only unconstitutional but also restored the National assembly. Now Sharif’s regime is playing with the constitution by employing absurd constitutional interpretation to justify unconstitutional acts. The PML-N is hell-bent on avoiding elections, for fears of being pommelled by PTI as it fails to curb inflation.

Though the supreme court of Pakistan has settled that the elections to the provincial assemblies of Punjab and KPK are to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies, the government is making excuses like shortage of funds and unavailability of personnel. As ruled by the August Court that parliamentary democracy is the basic feature of the constitution and there can be no parliamentary democracy without Parliament and Provincial Assemblies. And there can be neither parliament nor provincial assembly without the holding of elections as envisaged under the constitution. Any deviation from the Supreme Court’s ruling will tantamount to the contempt of court which will have consequences for the present fledgling coalition government. The constitution does not allow the care taker set up to continue for than 90 days’ time limit set by the constitution. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every relevant institution to ensure that the elections to the provincial assemblies are held within the constitutionally prescribed time period.

The reluctance of the PML-N led coalition government of not going into the elections will not bring it victory, given its worst economic performance. The current political uncertainty can come to an end if early elections are held throughout the country because a government with fresh public mandate can take tough political and economic decisions to steer the country out of multiple crises.

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Mian Rauf
Mian Rauf
The writer can be reached at [email protected]


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