One of the great hurdles for the Election Commission of Pakistan, that of money, has been removed by the Finance Ministry, which has given the State Bank the orders to transfer Rs 17.4 billion into the ECP’s account. This would bring the total disbursement so far to the ECP to Rs 27.4 billion. It might be remembered that the Finance Ministry’s refusal early in the year to transfer the requisite funds had left the ECP unable to hold the Punjab and KP Assemblies’ election within the constitutional framework. Even the federal elections are being held, by the ECP, on a date three months after the expiry of the constitutional limit. The monetary transaction should go to the credit of the ECP, which worked extra hard to get the money.
Another of the bottlenecks for the Punjab and KP Assemblies was the lack of military personnel to help fill in the gaps that would be left by a complete deployment of the police forces. The ECP has written to the military asking it to provide the necessary personnel.
Provision of security at polling stations is a big issue, which goes beyond the availability of troops. The postponement in January was made because the intelligence agencies had said there was a danger posed by militants. That spectre is being raised once again, amid voices that call for a postponement of polls. Not only has the ECP received petitions for postponement, but JUI(F) chief Maulana Fazlu Rehman has also voiced concerns about the polls in KP and Balochistan, traditionally the provinces where his party has been most competitive.
Another dimension is the potential uneven-ness of the playing field, by means of the placing of hurdles in the way of parties and groups from contesting. Though the PTI complied with the ECP order that it hold intraparty elections, those elections have been challenged by dissident founding member Akbar S. Babar, whose complaints about funding led to the adverse judgement against the PTI. The Balochistan caretaker government has also announced that it is contemplating action against both Manzoor Pashteen and his Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement. Elections must not only be safe, but they must also be inclusive if they are to have any credibility. The caretaker government should concentrate on the holding of these elections rather than anything else, which is what they seem to be doing.