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Tuesday December 07, 2021

Greeks bearing gifts

November 28, 2020

The current debate on electoral reforms is an exercise in futility, as a glance at the history of elections in Pakistan would show.

The present government has no genuine cause to seek electoral reforms, specifically in the Elections Act 2017, the very system under which it was elected. Indeed, any attempt to replace this Act would lend grist to the mill of the accusation of the combined opposition parties’ PDM that Prime Minister Imran Khan has been ‘selected’ under a faulty, unfair and unjust electoral system.

The PDM is, in order of their comparative strength in the National Assembly, led by the troika consisting of Maryam Nawaz, Bilawal Bhutto and Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The key demand of the PDM is for immediate general elections, which would inevitably be delayed in the quest of electoral reforms as recently proposed by the PTI.

This offer is deceptive, as it has been raised by the PTI following the dismissal of the reference to the Supreme Judicial Council regarding Justice Qazi Faez Isa, an eminent jurist endowed with impeccable integrity and wisdom, who is destined to be the chief justice of Pakistan at the time of the next general elections.

In the chequered constitutional history of Pakistan, there are three general elections whose fairness is indisputable. One, the elections held under General Yahya Khan in 1970. Two, the elections held by Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1988; and three, the elections of 1993 held by the acting president, Wasim Sajjad.

Much earlier, in 1954, the elections to the provincial assembly of East Bengal culminated in a rout of the ruling Muslim League at the hands of the United Front led by Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy and his then ally, Fazl ul Haq, former premier of the undivided Bengal. In that historic election, Nurul Amin, the Muslim League CM of East Bengal lost his seat to a medical student, Khaleque Nawaz Khan, despite the fact that his trusted home secretary Muhammad Azfar was appointed by the government of East Pakistan as chief election commissioner to conduct the elections.

To the credit of Nurul Amin, whose political career came to an end following the later General Elections of 1970, the example of the 1954 elections under the then electoral laws demonstrates that it is not ‘laws’ but the ‘political will of the powers’ that matter for fair elections.

So, it is not the law itself but the intention that matters. Take, for example, the present NAB chairman.

Of course, the political leadership of the two major opposition parties cannot escape responsibility, as it is they who selected Javed Iqbal, even though he was in Musharraf’s presidential palace when an unsuccessful attempt was being made to replace Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry, the hero of that hour, who had rejected all the treats by General Musharraf and the three other ranking lieutenant-generals, with the exception of Gen Kayani.

This reminds us of the great warrior statesman of the Trojan War, who devised the stratagem of packing a company of soldiers inside a huge Wooden Horse as a gift from the invading Greeks to the Trojan Prince Paris, who had eloped with the beautiful wife of Helen of Troy.

The amused Trojans wheeled the wooden horse inside the city of Troy as a trophy, whereupon Ulysses and his men jumped out of the belly of the Trojan Horse, killed the leaders of Troy, and rescued Helen, thus putting an end to the Trojan War, converting defeat into victory for Greece.

Essentially, this article argues that the PDM must beware of Greeks bearing gifts – the PTI’s so-called electoral reforms.

The writer is the former governor of Sindh and senior advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan.