IT appears that the PDM government is indulging in some ill-advised legal gymnastics as it attempts to delay elections for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies till after their constitutionally mandated deadline expires.
After the KP and Punjab governors earlier ‘agreed’ that holding provincial elections before a general election was ‘unaffordable’, and that all elections should instead be held together later in the year, PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique, Malik Ahmad Khan and Attaullah Tarar have made very similar assertions.
Malik Ahmed Khan, in fact, has gone so far as to claim that the Constitution does not say anything about holding elections within 90 days, even though the timeline appears to be laid out quite explicitly in Article 224(2).
In the same vein, the KP and Punjab police chiefs have now cited resurgent terrorism as an excuse for the Election Commission of Pakistan to put off the polls for another four to five months. They have both also made similar claims regarding not having enough personnel to ensure the security of the upcoming polls.
It would be extremely unfortunate if the ECP plays along with this little charade. As President Arif Alvi reminded the commission on Wednesday, holding elections under the guidelines set in the Constitution is the primary and essential duty of the ECP.
It is ultimately the commission which will be held responsible for any violation of the Constitution if it fails to discharge its functions and duties accordingly.
The law is quite clear that elections must be held within 90 days in case of the early dissolution of the national or provincial assemblies, and those in power should stop finding creative excuses not to obey.
There had rightfully been much anger and indignation last year when the PTI attempted to railroad the Constitution to announce an early election; the PDM, too, must not be allowed to railroad it to do the opposite.
The democratic process cannot be suspended. It is not up to the two governors or even the federal government to decide on the ‘affordability’ of elections. Indeed, they should ensure the necessary funding for the ECP even if it means curtailing expenditures in other areas.
Likewise, the threat of terrorist attacks cannot be made a reason to delay polls. Keeping the people safe is the responsibility of our law-enforcement agencies and the military: their ineptitude and failures have no bearing on the responsibilities assigned by the Constitution to the ECP.
The PDM must stop trying to manufacture bad precedents that future governments may also use to unlawfully extend their rule.
The government should stop attempting to hijack the electoral process with its shenanigans, assist the ECP in its preparations and ensure that the commission has whatever resources it needs. Democracy should not be so crudely thwarted.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.