Getting to elections

The only way out is for the parties to talk to one another

The Supreme Court’s three-member bench had valid reasons for receiving a briefing from the Director General Inter-Services Intelligence, the Director-General Military Intelligence and the Defence Secretary. After all, the security situation, as given in a briefing by the first two, had been given as a reason for not holding elections within the 90 days made necessary by the dissolution of the KP and Punjab Assemblies. However, the optics of having these officials in for a briefing in chamber did not make for good optics, considering the history, extending way back to the Dosso case more than six decades ago, of the judiciary giving the military what it wants. It was also noticeable that the briefing officials, like the State Bank of Pakistan team earlier, did not appear in the court, but in chamber. The optics were not good.

Parliament had rendered the State Banks’s obedience of the Court’s orders, to transfer money out of the Federal Government’s account to the State Bank to the Election Commission of Pakistan, unauthorized by Parliament, which had rejected the demand for grant for the money. It was not just covering the State Bank’s officials against a contempt notice by the Supreme Court, but also preventing any interference in the monopoly it has been given in the Constitution over financial powers. While the debate about the Court, its internal divisions, as well as its strength with respect to the Legislature and the Executive, continues, the country goes on rudderless and thus directionless. The Executive seems bent on avoiding elections, because it fears that the PTI would do well; the Judiciary seems bent on holding that election, though the reason does not seem to be merely adherence to the Constitution, so much as its yielding a particular result.

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The return to the path of constitutionalism will not be knocked into anyone’s head, but will only take place if the stakeholders most directly affected, the political parties, which will contest, came together and had reached some agreement on the date for elections, which need not necessarily meet the 90-day standard, but which should not so far exceed it as to be risible. If there was some such agreement, the Supreme Court would do well to agree to such a date. One reason why the constitutional time limit is that provincial caretaker governments would become doubtful, with lawyers using that in litigation. That situation must be avoided.

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


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