Next steps

Published December 2, 2023

LATE Thursday, the ECP issued its final delimitation list for constituencies for the national and provincial assemblies, thereby striking off a major item on its election to-do list. It is now hoped that, with the completion of this important step, the ECP will quickly proceed with the remaining items on its agenda ahead of the upcoming general election.

Notwithstanding all the official promises and assurances made in recent weeks, there is a growing sense of unease over whether the polls remain on track.

The Islamabad gossip mill has been churning out various theories to explain why certain stakeholders would like to see the polls put off for another few months, and these theories have been taken seriously enough to have been dissected at length in various talk shows and op-eds.

The fresh talk of poll delays seems to have annoyed the ECP, however. In a separate statement issued earlier this week, it rubbished all speculation, insisting that everything was going according to plan.

The preliminary delimitations issued by the ECP had attracted over 1,300 challenges, and it is expected that the Commission addressed all or at least most of them before issuing the final list.

There is also the matter of two petitions which have been filed with the ECP, arguing that the cold weather and Balochistan’s deteriorating security situation should be reason enough to delay the polls, at least in the affected districts.

Separately, an impression is gaining currency that the decision-makers want more time to continue stabilising the economy, as they feel their recent efforts have only just started bearing fruit.

While such chatter may be taken as a sign by some that polls may be pushed forward, the ECP should ignore the noise and proceed purposefully in discharging its responsibilities.

The ECP has made a solemn commitment to the Supreme Court to hold elections on Feb 8. It must demonstrate that it is doing everything in its power to deliver. Now that the final delimitation list has been issued, the ECP should waste no time in announcing the election schedule.

There needs to be a greater sense of urgency regarding the polls, and it seems that one way that people will stop getting distracted by conspiracy theories and bad ideas is if they are given some concrete timeline to hold the authorities to. A formal schedule will also place pressure on the state to get its act together and begin preparing in earnest to usher in a new government.

A sense of complacency seems to be setting in, and many seem happy to let things run as they are. However, it is high time for a democratic government to take over the state’s affairs. The ECP has a duty to facilitate this transfer at the earliest.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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