The failure of the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold elections within the constitutionally mandated 90-period has created a situation of confusion and uncertainty in national politics, which require either an elected government or at least knowledge of when the elections for one are going to be held. The ECP has said it will first carry out delimitations according to the latest census, which is clearly an excuse for the postponement of polls. Apart from the absence of any time limit for the delimitation, the period between censuses, seven years, does not create the danger of unrepresentative constituencies if present delimitations are left untouched. Even the delimitations are not generating the kind of activity by prospective candidates and parties that they normally do. It remains to be seen whether that reflects apathy or a storm later.
There is also a policy of pick-and-choose at work, and which might tilt the balance not merely against the PTI, but in favour of one of the members of the outgoing coalition. While there have been restrictions placed on the Punjab government in making transfers and postings, impugning the neutrality of the concerned officers, no attention has been paid to the appointment within the caretaker government of officials at the minister of state level, with affiliations of the outgoing government. This merely reinforces the claim by some observers that the ECP is not just executing an agenda which works towards a particular result for the coming election, but has not set that agenda itself, but has had it set by some other player.
Those who have charge of the ECP should assert its position as a constitutional and independent body, which does not have to follow the lead of any individual or institution. It must focus not only its own energies on holding elections within the constitutionally defined timeframe, but those of the entire nation, in particular of the stakeholders in the process, the political parties and the candidates. It should keep in mind, and not fail to remind any institutions or individuals who might have lost sight of the goal, that the purpose of being a constitutional polity is to be a democracy, and for that, elections on time are a foundation. Without timely elections, there is only chaos. By falling in with previous postponements, the ECP has played a significant role in creating such chaps. It must play its due role now, and prevent further disruption.