State of impasse

 
December 01, 2021

Once again, the government and the opposition have failed to agree on a vital issue that affects the working of the Election Commission of Pakistan at a time when it is involved in several crucial...

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Once again, the government and the opposition have failed to agree on a vital issue that affects the working of the Election Commission of Pakistan at a time when it is involved in several crucial decisions, including the use of EVMs for the next election. A parliamentary committee on appointing members from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which met in Islamabad on Monday, was not able to agree on the members from the two provinces, despite a long debate. The opposition did however propose that the members be appointed strictly on merit, rather than one member on the basis of the opposition’s choice and one on the basis of the government's choice. It should be observed that there had also been a long delay, long beyond the constitutionally mandated period, for the appointment of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan after they had retired. Nearly a year lapsed before these posts could be filled, although the constitutional period is 145 days.

The ECP consists of the chief election commissioner and one member from each of the four provinces. The members are chosen through discussions by the parliamentary committee. Naturally, this is an important assignment and the ECP needs to be complete well ahead of an election, and well ahead of other crucial decisions, which could affect that election. It is also clear that the government and opposition have come no closer to being able to talk to each other and fulfil primary duties which are essential to the running of the country and this democracy. The committee will now meet once again on December 8, and this time, we hope a decision can be reached.

The opposition has expressed apprehension that the government may refuse to change its stance or even shift it a little given its past record, and insist on making this yet another matter of ego. We hope this is not the case. Pakistan does not deserve to be run on the basis of personal ego but as a democracy within which it is vital that the opposition and the government work together. They have so far shown a lack of ability to do so in a mature and consistent fashion. It is time there was a change in these practices and the two sides showed greater willingness to make democracy function smoothly with the government also accepting that the ECP is a constitutional body that has the sole role to play in the conduct of elections, so that new members can be appointed and the constant bickering with opposition that we have witnessed over almost every issue brought to a halt. Unless this happens, damage will be done to a democracy that is already fragile because of the pressures placed on it, due to the lack of harmony between the opposition and the PTI government.



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