THE PML-N’s positive response to the prime minister’s offer of talks on a mutually acceptable chief election commissioner deserves to be welcomed for more than one reason. For one, the reciprocity and political common sense in evidence in Lahore on Friday should serve to lower the political temperatures at a time when the country and the system are still reeling from last month’s judicial and political tremors. These included not only Yousuf Raza Gilani’s disqualification as prime minister and parliamentarian but also the court notices to President Asif Ali Zardari and Raja Pervez Ashraf on dual office and the Swiss letter. Against this background, the two mainstream parties’ decision to talk things out points perhaps to a realisation on both sides of what is at stake. Whether a general election is held early next year or circumstances force the coalition government to advance it, the two parties’ conciliatory gesture is a good omen. An election is not in the air, but Friday’s progress should serve to induce an election-oriented atmosphere and sideline the irritants that have often served to blur national priorities by focusing on trivialities.
It is time we reminded our politicians in power and in the opposition how even a single piece of good news can make a difference to the morale of a nation fed up with nerve-racking crises and ‘gates’ which hit the country with astonishing frequency. The media — sometimes equally guilty of having wrong priorities of display and comment — jumped at the bit of amiability seen in Lahore and made it the lead story. The CEC is the linchpin of an election, for the constitution’s Article 220 makes it the “duty of all executive authorities” to assist the CEC in the discharge of his duties and functions. A caretaker prime minister is not on the cards yet. But the spirit the PPP and the PML-N have shown on the question of the CEC’s appointment should guide their conduct in the other case. A truly neutral caretaker set-up, with the prime minister and the CEC acceptable to all sides, should help make the general election transparent.