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Friday June 21, 2024

New year, old baggage

The avalanche of ‘rejections’ has been called yet another move to stop the PTI from contesting the polls

By Editorial Board
January 01, 2024
A PTI worker can be seen standing on a vehicle and waving the party flag in this image released on October 30, 2022. — Facebook/Imran Khan
A PTI worker can be seen standing on a vehicle and waving the party flag in this image released on October 30, 2022. — Facebook/Imran Khan

On the first day of the year general elections are to take place, a quick look at the political realities in the country reveals that the controversies surrounding the upcoming polls are not going to end anytime soon. Pakistan, it is obvious, has walked into 2024 carrying all the baggage of 2023. Just before the year closed, the PTI suffered yet another blow when the nomination papers of the party’s top leaders were rejected during the scrutiny process. 

The avalanche of ‘rejections’ has been called yet another move to stop the PTI from contesting the polls. The third phase of the general elections began yesterday during which appeals can be filed against the rejections or acceptance of the nomination papers of the contesting candidates. The PTI is expected to file appeals before the appellate tribunals against the rejections. The ECP’s appellate tribunals will decide on these appeals by January 10. Many believe the PTI may eventually get relief from the judiciary as it did with its election symbol.

Meanwhile, if Election 2024 is right around the corner, then it is surely taking its sweet time in revealing itself in any manifestation, the country not seeing much of any party’s election campaigns – something that is usual when elections are so near. There isn’t much happening on the ground in terms of election activity. Many are pinning the blame for this on the uncertainty surrounding who can contest the polls and who cannot. Media reports indicate that the ECP may also challenge the Peshawar High Court’s stay order on the bat symbol. There are now voices of caution that say that a tussle between the ECP and the judiciary could even end up affecting the poll date. Whatever the legal complications, these polls must take place on time because the delay in holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa led to an interim government that is now completing its one year in power. Is Pakistan doomed to forever be run by interim setups? One would hope not. What is happening with the PTI and the controversial polls has been condemned by observers but they also say that elections should not be delayed at any cost as that will only lead to more uncertainty. But one is forced to wonder what exactly an election means if political stakeholders are kept out of it, if political persecution continues through the electoral process, and if the voter is unconvinced of the whole exercise, to begin with.

A full-fledged election campaign will begin once the ECP allots electoral symbols to candidates by January 13. While this only gives about three weeks for the campaign to all candidates, the real challenge will be for the PTI, which is popular among the people but unpopular in the power quarters where it matters the most. On the other hand, there’s the PML-N, which seems to have no interest in being visible on the ground, raising questions over why a party that may eventually form government is missing in action. If the self-styled messiahs of our country are this disinterested in winning the people’s mandate, a very apt question would be: does the people’s will even matter? And if it doesn’t, as it has not so many times before, what is the point of the fast-shrinking fig leaf of democracy?