On the best of days, the country’s Parliament resembles a broken car, which refuses to move unless someone volunteers to give it a good, hard push. The wave of judicial activism, which many believe still hasn’t completely subsided, has a lot to do with the Parliament’s inability to perform its job on its own. This time, it is the matter of the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). During one year alone, following the voluntary resignation of former CEC Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has had three CECs, all temporary appointments intended to keep the seat warm until the government and the opposition decides to act in accordance with the Constitution. In its decision on 30th October, the Supreme Court has set 13th November 2014 as the deadline for the appointment of the Chief of ECP, and has threatened to withdraw the serving CEC which could create another crisis.
As per the mechanism described in the Constitution, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are required to propose three names each, which will then be forwarded to the relevant parliamentary committee, where the members will choose the right man with consensus. From the looks of it, it appears a fairly simple and easy exercise to undertake. The reluctance on the part of the stakeholders to act has to do with politics, not legal procedures. One reason cited for the delay has been that the government wishes to implement electoral reforms, before appointing a chief for five years. So far, no noticeable progress has been made on that front. Another reason is the overall controversy surrounding the ECP, which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has time and again accused of collaborating in alleged rigging during the 2013 general elections. Any new appointment, it is feared, will create more controversy and contribute to the prevalent political turmoil. While the PM and the Leader of the Opposition may be right in assuming the worst, it is their job at the end of the day to create breakthroughs and proceed. Delaying decisions and refusing to act in violation of the law for political expediency should be unacceptable.