ISLAMABAD, July 23: Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim who took the oath of the Chief Election Commissioner on Monday has said that only three free and fair general elections have been held in the history of the country.
At a meeting he held with members, officers and employees of the commission, Justice Ebrahim said that the elections held in 1971, 1988 and 2008 were to some extent free and fair.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry administered the oath to the new CEC at a ceremony attended by judges of the Supreme Court, members and officers of the Election Commission and senior lawyers.
Justice Ebrahim said the country’s future depended on transparent and fair elections and his one-point agenda was to hold free and fair elections.
“We have the Constitution and electoral laws to guide us and do not have to look here and there,” sources quoted him as saying at the meeting.
He asked officers and staff of the Election Commission to work with dedication and honesty without any pressure.
He said it was his dream to give a prosperous and democratic Pakistan to the new generation and the Election Commission was the institution which could turn the dream into reality.
“We have only one-point agenda and that is public justice through free, fair, transparent and impartial elections so that no-one could ever point a finger at the impartiality of the EC and all employees of the EC should work to achieve that goal.”
He said democracy was a philosophy leading to a democratic system and this could only be achieved through a process of election. Justice Ebrahim said that the Constitution and law would be followed by the Election Commission in holding free and fair elections.
Talking to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, he said it was the prerogative of the government to hold elections, adding that his earlier statement about the need for early elections had been made in his personal capacity.
Justice Ebrahim said his predecessor had recently said that the commission was ready to hold general and local government elections and he was confident that this was the factual position.
Meanwhile, PML-N Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah has expressed reservations over Justice Ebrahim’s views about fairness of elections held in 1971, 1988 and 2008.
He said there was no doubt that the 1971 polls were free and fair, but Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League, and not the PPP, emerged victorious.
In accordance with the principle of majority, the Awami League should have formed the government but the PPP because of what he termed its lust for power dismembered the country.
He said that the elections held in 1988 were to a large extent free from interference of the establishment which was under pressure at that time. He said the polls had taken place months after the death of Gen Ziaul Haq in a plane crash in Bahawalpur and Ghulam Ishaq Khan, being the acting president, had no political interests.
He said that Gen (retd) Aslam Beg was the chief of the army staff who avoided meddling in the electoral process.
About 2008 elections, the PML-N leader said Justice Ebrahim appeared to have some misunderstanding about fairness of the polls which “in no way were either free or fair”.
He said the elections were held under military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf and even the president of the `King’s party’, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was on record having said that his defeat had been engineered by the establishment.“Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim is a good jurist and let us see how he holds next general elections,” he said.
Justice Ebrahim is the first Chief Election Commissioner appointed through a changed procedure involving a parliamentary committee with equal representation of the treasury and opposition. He is also the first CEC appointed for a term of five years under a provision of the 18th Constitution Amendment.