ISLAMABAD - While the critical questions on the independence and impartiality of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) keep arising with a compellingly frequent pace, the assertively suggestive demands to wrap up its existing nomenclature get to offer too rare a deal.
The outbursts from political parties triggering the calls for an administrative overhaul in the electoral body courtesy its allegedly partisan baboos often prompted internal reshuffles within the commission with hasty transfers and postings been made to skip criticism but asking altogether for sending the electoral entity packing was not heard of before.
Affronting, as it may sound, the outright demand placed up straight by Dr Tahirul Qadri for dissolving the election commission, to be followed by a fresh reconstitution, has not borne out of the blue. One could have sent it vividly coming.
From exchange of informal bonhomie between the provincial election bigwigs and ruling elites in Sindh to the affable geniality among some religious parties like JUI-F and an ECP baboo at the Centre, the electoral body has been a subject of controversy minus all the good that counts. Adding to it, the strikingly soft corner, that the chief election commissioner probably holds somewhere deep down his heart for MQM, speaks volumes. This was convincingly transpired in the chief’s ‘personal opposition’ to constituencies’ delimitation in Karachi.
“I will not comment on his (Qadri’s) statement. It’s a political discussion and constitution does not mandate me or the ECP to get into politics. But I want to add that the election commission does not take sides. We’re not biased. We’re independent and we’ve taken some remarkable decisions in recent past,” Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim says to recall the commission’s ‘achievements,’ presumably earned lately, on an all-is-well note. This includes proposed code of conduct, guidelines on intra-party elections and ‘ban’ on political parties’ advertisements with public funds.
“The election commission is a constitutional entity that abides by its constitutional responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of Pakistan. The ECP was reconstituted in the light of due constitutional provisions. Personal wishes aside, law has to take its course,” Ebrahim cites the passage of 18th amendment that allowed the electoral body’s reconstitution, in an implied response to Qadri’s statement. “It is the will of elected representatives.”
Ebrahim asserts not to quit and silence his critics through practical means, not words. “No words but actions. And I’ve said this many times and I repeat, I will not quit.”
The good/bad debate apart, just recently, hardly over a week ago, the electoral body had come up with a unique clarification against the accusations pertinently questioning the commission’s impartiality. Some politicians went to the extent so as to label the election commission as a ‘spokesman’ of PML-N. The ECP had ‘emphatically’ denied being a mouthpiece of Nawaz-and-company and it even banned political advertisements with public funds moments after this clarification was issued. But this, justifiably, is not counted as much to get the things in order.
Finding it hard to back off from its high-sounding assertions on demarcating the electoral boundaries of Karachi, the commission’s administrative machinery had been quick in detaching its department from the chief’s ‘personal’ opposition to the delimitation issue but only after the national media, including this newspaper, did not assessed this U-Turn on a welcoming note.
On the paper, the election commission is conferred with boundless powers to get its authority and independence exercised in terms of the conduct of free and fair polls as well as purging the electoral process of any kind of foul play, in every constitutionally possible way, it deems fit. On the ground, however, it’s a very different story.