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August 31, 2015

The imperatives for a new ECP


August 31, 2015

DUBAI: When the present Election Commission fades into ignominy after resignation of its members, Pakistan’s democratic and electoral process will be set to take a giant leap forward towards free and fair, non-controversial elections in the real sense.
The credit will go to the Nasirul Mulk Judicial Commission, which documented its flaws and deliberate acts of omission and commission and some politicians who stood firm against this discredited lot.
When I wrote in April that the ECP may ultimately be found guilty of the 2013 poll debacle, much before the Judicial Commission gave its resounding verdict against the Election Commission, it was the only logical conclusion that could have been drawn at that time.
Now when the ECP members have been almost forced to quit, it is evident that not the elections but the ECP was rigged, partly because of incompetence and mostly due to deliberate favouritism, and was unable or unwilling to stop anyone from making a mess of the sanctity of the vote and the whole electoral system.
The ECP was first rigged when a man, frail and physically weak, but with past high credentials, Fakhru Bhai, was appointed as CEC and then stripped off his powers when he was made one among the equals to any ECP member. That was when Fakhru Bhai should have resigned as he was practically made a hostage to political appointees who had interests of their sponsors to watch.
Then came a series of decisions, which he did not like but kept quiet, denting his own image and reputation. Ultimately the upright man inside Fakhru Bhai revolted and he resigned but it was too late.
He never spoke about what happened again but if his health and mind do permit, he must record the facts. It would be a great national service because now the entire ECP has been discredited and condemned.
The disbanding of the ECP after a grueling but totally unnecessary public feud with politicians, especially Imran Khan, means it was more a question of bruised

egos that the retired judges in the ECP pretended to stand firm on some constitutional plank.
The ECP is there to act as a neutral umpire while all the players are politicians. How can these umpires not respond to charges that had come from a forum headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and pursued by politicians? This ECP had to go.
Now what? This question will be debated but it is crucial to many upcoming events and developments. Local government elections are due but these are managed and handled locally by the provincial Election Commissions.
So an immediate need is that all provincial heads of ECP must quit and new non-controversial persons are immediately appointed. Many have hinted or have decided to quit which is a good sign. Cleaning up the central ECP in Islamabad and leaving the provincial set-ups will only be doing a half-hearted job. A full cleanup is a must to begin afresh.
It has to be decided what is more important for all political parties and the whole system: Holding the polls under a controversial and suspect ECP, both central and provincial, or delaying the polls until an electoral mechanism, which is transparent, above board and acceptable to all with honest and credible people, is in place.
The key to achieving this would be who appoints the new members of the ECP and the provincial heads and members and through what process.
If only politicians are again going to decide, vested interests will again come into play.
Let there be a broader consensus on the new names. The lists of all nominees must be published. All courageous and bold men of integrity must come forward to present themselves for this national duty. There should be a quick scrutiny, in the public eye, on TV, in the media, in seminars and all objections must be noted and checked.
Even parliamentarians can hold hearings by calling the candidates and questioning them about their past or present. Let those who clear this public scrutiny be appointed as umpires for a process that is crucial to the continuity of the democratic process.
If this is done, the long street agitation of PTI and the hard work of the Judicial Commission will have made a far reaching and constructive contribution to our democracy.

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