The Election Commission of Pakistan’s postponing of the Punjab poll from April 30 to October 8, did not come as a surprise, because the word out had been that the polls to the two provincial assemblies dissolved by the PTI would not be held within the 90-day time limit prescribed by the Constitution. It had been confidently asserted that the polls would be held together with those of the other two provincial assemblies and the National Assembly. The October 8 date seems appropriate for polls to be held after the expiry in August of the five-year tenure of the current assemblies.
The ECP’s has offered reasoning for its actions, because it will have to defend its stance before the Supreme Court, whose Chief Justice had said a matter of hours before the ECP made public its decision, that the Supreme Court would intervene if there was ill-intent in holding the poll. The ECP will have to show absence of ill intent, whenever it goes before the Supreme Court, it being a safe bet that the postponement will end up in court. There are always good reasons why such a complex exercise, involving so many people, will face obstacles. But surmounting obstacles is the ECP’s job. The two major concerns are money and security. The ECP has shown that it has failed to plan in advance. Money will always be an issue. Security s well. Yet the ECP has to keep in mind that any chief minister, any prime minister, may dissolve his assembly, with regard to his own convenience, not the ECP’s. It has to be ready to step and hold an election. True, there is little the Supreme Court can do when a department says something is impossible. If the Finance Ministry says it has no money, their lordships of the Supreme Court cannot be expected to pool their salaries.
It is perhaps unfortunate that the issue, like so many other, shows a partisan divide. The PTI wants these polls early, as a way of bringing party chief Imran Khan to power. The PDM wants the polls put off, to give its drastic economic measures time to work. It is also unfortunate that this divide has become the lens through which the entire judiciary, including the Supreme Court, has its decisions viewed.