Govt is largely to blame
Islamabad High Court Monday suspended the appointment of two election commission members as notified by the President of Pakistan Arif Alvi. The court was hearing a petition filed by a lawyer sometime back. Earlier the same bench had referred the matter to the Senate Chairman and National Assembly speaker for amicable resolution. Upon asking, the court was informed that so far three meetings have been held between the custodians of the two houses yet no concrete steps were possible due to the recent standoff with the opposition.
Earlier one may recall the Chief Election Commissioner had refused to administer oath to the two designated members, calling it against the Constitution. Now the court directed the authorities concerned to report back by December the day when the incumbent CEC is due to retire. The court also noted that the commission is already non functional due to the undue delay in the appointments that were supposed to have taken place by March this year.
This crisis of sorts can be put down to the non serious attitude of the government that since its beginning never really accepted the opposition as a legitimate stakeholder in the legislative and administrative framework. Post 18th Amendment there are many major functions and appointments of the constitutional institutions that need mutual agreement. And there is a clearly laid out procedure to follow in case of a deadlock. But the PTI pursued this matter in the most bizarre of fashions since after the two members from smaller provinces retired. Making light of the subject, the PM did not even bother to formally consult the opposition leader and meandered his way to fulfilling the constitutional requirement which as was expected backfired. Not deterred by this snub at the hands of opposition, the president chose to notify two of their party nominees to the ECP. Were it not for the CEC refusal, it would have become a precedent for all other appointments. Now that CEC retires in a matter of a month or so, the government shall be faced with another bigger crisis as it cannot afford to run an important democratic institution without its head. And as things stand, there is little hope of government softening its stance on opposition. Stalemate in politics breeds more instability, the government must know.
Electoral reforms was a major slogan for the PTI when it was in the dharna mode. One year into the government it has not moved on the front. Now it is again talking of reforming the commission’s role as the opposition lays claim to the PM scalp. It is late though yet not too late. The government must learn to recognize the due role of opposition in a parliamentary democracy and have regard for the constitution. The act of disregarding the constitution by a democratic party is as ironical as it gets. Democracy’s very survival is in preserving the constitution. Or the line that divides a democratic dispensation from a dictatorial one shall be blurred to the advantage of forces inimical to people’s rule.