Friday June 21, 2024

Toxic attitudes

By Editorial Board
September 16, 2021

The way the matter of the ECP has been handled by the government has been extremely unpleasant, to say the least. It goes against democracy, undermines common decency, and it is certainly no way to solve the problems that crop up in governments from time to time. For the first years of the PTI government and until early this year, the chief election commissioner continued to be praised by the PTI as a man of high standing and somebody who could be relied upon. It is difficult to understand how this opinion so suddenly changed, and how we have reached a point where the PTI is now accusing the same man of being totally untrustworthy and the Election Commission of possibly taking money from the opposition to make things for the government difficult. The controversy has flared up into a head-on confrontation now, and needs judicious handling from the government’s side. Ministers threatening to set ‘institutions on fire’ are not helping anyone and the nascent democracy in this country is further threatened by such statements.

The issue is of the EVMs that the PTI government wants to use for the upcoming election. The ECP after looking at the machine has already put forward 37 points, questioning how these machines can be used, and what the potential problems are. Some of these refer to the capacity of the ECP itself, and some PTI ministers have been correct in pointing out that this capacity needs to be built and developed so that in the future, such problems can be avoided. But it also appears to be true that the problems with the Daska election held earlier this year, and eventually won by the PML-N candidate after a bitter struggle during which election officials also disappeared quite literally into the night, has muddied the waters. Following that incident, the PTI and Imran Khan were quick to criticise the CEC and his team. The acrimony has only become worse over time. Meanwhile, on Wednesday the Islamabad High Court disposed of a petition against holding the next general elections through EVMs, ruling that the required legislation for their use is up to parliament which will have the final say.

In the first place, institutions such as the Election Commission of Pakistan deserve respect. It is also true that ministers who have been voted in to represent the people need to watch what words they use, and what language they adopt. Any reform involving EVMs must come with the agreement and consensus between all major parties involved. Election reform carried out only by the ruling party will not work and will lead to even more problems as far as results are concerned. It is now the government’s responsibility to cool tempers down by not adding more fuel to the fire that is already raging on the political stage in the country. More caustic remarks will harm the political culture in the country. There is a dire need to reduce the toxicity that has prevailed lately; it only ends up damaging both the government and the dignity of the Election Commission of Pakistan as the body solely responsible for the conduct of a fair and free poll.