DUBAI: Amid growing concerns about the credibility, and even the capacity of the Election Commission of Pakistan to face grave challenges, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim on Sunday added to the uncertainty and asked former Law Minister Babar Awan to help him face the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s order about delimitation of Karachi constituencies.
“Mr Ebrahim called me thrice on Sunday and asked me to officially give him legal advice whether the Supreme Court verdict to carry out the delimitation was right,” Babar Awan told me on the phone on Sunday evening.
“I promised to give him written advice in one or two days,” the former law minister, who severely criticised the Election Commission on Saturday, said.
Seeking Babar Awan’s help is another issue but in a statement released by a private news agency Fakhru Bhai was quoted as saying that a meeting would be held soon to discuss the SC verdict. No date of the meeting was given.
This U-turn has come after the CEC had categorically stated on January 22 that delimitation of constituencies in Karachi before general elections was not possible and had pointed out that the absence of fresh census might make it impossible to implement the Supreme Court order in this regard.
The court had observed on November 26 that constituencies in Karachi should be delimited in a manner that they comprise “mixed population” to avoid political polarisation and issued notice to the secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan after an ECP official submitted that the process of delimitation of constituencies in the city could not be initiated.
In December, the Election Commission unanimously decided to carry out the SC orders and Fakhruddin G Ebrahim also agreed with the decision. But he surprised many when he made a statement two days later that he was personally opposed to the idea. How did he agree inside the meeting and opposed it outside is still a mystery.
On December 28 last year, Ansar Abbasi had reported that on December 13, the ECP decided to move ahead with the delimitation of Karachi city in exercise of its powers under Section 10-A of the Delimitation of Constituencies Act 1974. “It was a unanimous decision of all the members, including the CEC, and it had also asked the Sindh Election Commission to submit comprehensive proposals to carry out the delimitation within 15 days.
Following the Commission’s decision, not has only the ECP secretary been publicly saying that the Supreme Court’s order on the delimitation of constituencies in Karachi would be implemented but Fakhru Bhai told The News’ senior staffer Ahmad Noorani in the first week of December that the Supreme Court judgment will be implemented in any case.
Not only that, the CEC added that he had met all political parties, and all except one (the MQM) are ready for the delimitation exercise.
According to Ansar Abbasi’s report questions were being raised as to why Fakhru Bhai opted to publicly oppose the matter after having agreed to what the apex court had decided. Many believe that it might be his age factor and the environment of stress and strain as the ECP is faced with the challenge of holding fair and free elections. Fakhru Bhai is 85.
Just hours before Fakhru Bhai called Babar Awan on Sunday to seek his advice on the SC verdict, the former law minister had issued a condemning statement on Twitter about the Election Commission.
“After the SC verdict on non compliance of its order by ECP, remaining credibility of election referee is drained,” Awan said in his tweet.
The SC in its 27-page verdict on Saturday in the Karachi case noted that its remarks on delimitation were not just observations but were part of the judgement and are needed to be implemented.
Many senior lawyers and jurists on Sunday said the ECP could be held in contempt of the SC by not implementing the order and on Sunday, in apparent panic, Fakhru Bhai was seeking advice of the former law minister who himself is facing contempt proceedings in the SC and his license to practice law is still revoked.
When I called Fakhru Bhai on Sunday night to get his views, he picked up his phone and when I asked him what was going on, he expressed great annoyance and said: “I would not talk to you, everything is over.”
What he meant by the remark was not clear to me but I believe he meant that everything between us, as Fakhru Bhai has been a long time acquaintance and we have been meeting at the residence of late Iqbal Haider in Clifton Karachi many times, was over.
I hope this was what he meant and nothing more.But Babar Awan has been more explicit in his remarks on the situation. On Twitter he wrote an Urdu couplet which said a lot. “Woh dastaan jo masaib mein dafan hai ab tak…, Zubaan e khalq peh jab aa gayi to kya ho ga??” (The tales which are buried in problems so far, What will happen when they become talk of the town).
A senior writer and columnist, Haroon Rashid had also hinted at something basically murky in a recent column when he said Fakhru Bhai was part of some kind of a collusion (Gath Jor). What he meant by it was not explained.