A new CEC

 
January 26, 2020

Former secretary of Pakistan Railways, Raja Sikandar Sultan, has finally been appointed as the new chief election commissioner of Pakistan. He is known to be an upright man with a track record of...

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Former secretary of Pakistan Railways, Raja Sikandar Sultan, has finally been appointed as the new chief election commissioner of Pakistan. He is known to be an upright man with a track record of commitment and honesty. He has held senior positions in the government machinery such as being chief secretary of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. He is the first retired bureaucrat to be appointed as the CEC. In the past, this post was always held by a retired judge or a serving judge in an acting capacity. And, it has not always been easy to find a suitable retired judge to lead this cumbersome exercise. Holding of elections in a country such as Pakistan is not an easy job. It does not only require honesty and integrity, but also a certain administrative acumen that can enable the incumbent to juggle many balls at the same time.

In most developing countries where democracy is in its nascent stages, the election exercise is mostly controversial. Even in so-called mature democracies such as India and America, elections are at times questionable, either by their own less-than-perfect laws; or by manipulations during and after elections. For example, in India the electronic machines used in the previous election have raised serious doubts about the overwhelming victory of the BJP. That’s why in Pakistan too, even a retired judge, as honest and upright as the recently deceased Justice Fakhruddin G Ibrahim resigned as CEC after the elections in 2013, before his term’s end. Keeping in mind the difficulty of finding a right candidate, it was the 22nd Amendment to the constitution of Pakistan that allowed the appointment of a retired bureaucrat too as CEC. This amendment has now stood us in good stead to resolve this long-standing issue that had paralyzed the work of the election commission.

Sultan’s name was proposed by the PTI government and the opposition finally withdrew its objections. In a related development, the parliamentary committee also approved the names for ECP members from Balochistan and Sindh. The position of the CEC had been vacant since Dec 5, 2019, when Justice Sardar Raza Khan retired. The worst part of the entire episode was that there was not a single meeting between the prime minister and leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif to discuss the appointment of new CEC. The appointment of Justice Sardar Raza Khan was made in an amicable manner by the then PM Nawaz Sharif and leader of the opposition in the previous assembly, Khursheed Shah. Let’s hope that the new CEC fulfils his duties with commitment and the next elections produce results that are accepted by all parties. That is the spirit of democracy.



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