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Friday April 19, 2024

Matters of sovereignty

No precedent or provision in our constitution or international law calls for or invites involvement of international organizations

By Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar
March 05, 2024
This representational image shows the interior view of a courtroom. — Unsplash/File
This representational image shows the interior view of a courtroom. — Unsplash/File

Everyone, but notably the political parties, should understand that Pakistan is a sovereign state. They need to especially understand this when it comes to bringing foreign meddling into our legal and electoral affairs.

No precedent or provision in our constitution or international law calls for or invites the involvement of international organizations such as the IMF in a forensic audit of a country's election process in response to claims of election manipulation or rigging as earlier before. This is purely Pakistan’s internal matter, given that there is already a legal mechanism in place under Article 225 of the constitution and sections 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, and 144 of the Election Act of 2017.

It is important to mention that after the general election, the political parties – including the PTI – had simultaneously approached these legal forums to address allegations of corrupt practices or election rigging, despite their mistrust of them. This is because the Election Act of 2017 and the constitution both clearly outline the process for doing so.

On several occasions, higher courts or electoral tribunals have stepped in and ruled that some results are invalid because of anomalies that occurred throughout the election process. While transparency and good governance should surely be the only priorities of any country, these are essentially domestic matters for sovereign governments and do not call for the engagement of global groups.

The current letter from a political party requesting a forensic audit of 30 per cent of the seats in different constituencies from private organizations under IMF supervision is not legally supported by any provision of the Pakistani constitution or election laws, nor any international legal framework.

This will only serve to polarize further the political and economic landscape of the nation, which is not in Pakistan's best interests. The move to seek an interventionary election audit is purely political and won't help the law in any way, aside from raising questions about the authority of state institutions and inviting unprecedented intervention by an international financial institution in Pakistan’s political history. The special tribunals created by Article 225 of the constitution and sections 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, and 144 of the Election Act of 2017 are the only legal forums that can address allegations of rigging or disputes in elections.

Since the IMF is not legally authorized to get involved in domestic affairs and such a move would not be in the best interests of the state as a whole – given that Pakistan is in dire need of both domestic and foreign funding from international institutions to maintain its economy – it would be unprecedented for a political party to write to the organization regarding rigged elections.

The election tribunal, which is chaired by high court judges, is required by the Election Act to deliberate on election disputes within 120 days; therefore, this would be the preferred course of action, and the judges should resolve these problems as soon as possible per the law. Thus, our political parties should respect state interests and abstain from endorsing foreign interference for such purposes because doing so would eventually undermine state sovereignty and make the entire world laugh at our institutions.

Furthermore, creating legal forums and having more in-depth internal discussions was the only way political parties could handle issues of justice, governance, the economy, social justice, electoral reforms, devolution of power, and transparency in all areas of government.

Everyone must remember that the political parties and people of Pakistan should consider using our internal, established fora for any legal matters or election disputes as their last resort, and they should not consider inviting foreign intervention into our domestic affairs.

It would have been preferable if all political parties had made use of the legal channels made possible by the law and the constitution relating to election disputes rather than encouraging foreign involvement, which would have eventually harmed Pakistan.


The writer is a practising advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan with 25 years of legal standing. He can be reached at: hafizahsaan47@gmail.com