Institutional Miasma

Before the appointment of four new Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members in July, important posts in the ECP top bureaucracy had already been filled by its management. Mass postings, transfers and promotions were made in haste, new roles were assigned to hundreds of officers of different cadres, so that no room could be left for the successors to intervene. And that’s not the whole story. These appointments included that of a former military officer, Brigadier (retd) Abbas Ali Khan as director general administration, who was in charge of the mass reshuffle. He is in trouble now, but not for his actions as DG admin but for his own appointment. ECP management hired the retired military officer in Grade-20 in sheer disregard for its own rules and laws laid down to hire ex-servicemen. This is the current state of the ECP, and for all their flawed strategy, the PTI’s grand tantrum over corruption and rigging is not wholly unjustified.

All eyes are on the PTI’s call for closing the capital after the holy month of Muharram. Imran Khan has been rightly criticised for ignoring his seat in the National Assembly and always taking to the streets. His motives have also been questioned on the speculation that he is trying to engineer a coup so as to take charge. All the while, he has maintained that what he is doing is to rid the system to corrupt individuals and nothing more. While there is no real clarity on these matters, it cannot be denied that corruption has seeped into the system like a cancer and the institutions are complicit.

The opposition parties have knocked at the door of the ECP to disqualify people named in the Papers for concealment of assets, including offshore companies identified in the Panama Papers. The ECP is taking up these petitions next week, where legal teams of both the PTI and PML-N are expected to present their cases. However, we can expect little from the ECP. The ECP has said that it may not even have jurisdiction over the issue. The other battle ground is parliament, and the opposition parties are losing that battle. The third arena is legal, and leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah has said, “We’ll not go for any legal battle till we exhaust all available parliamentary options when it comes to Panama investigations.”

While the rigging allegations against the PML-N in the 2013 elections could not be proven conclusively, the fact of the matter is that much of the polling and its management was grossly inefficient and suspect. The ECP in all this mismanagement was not free from blame and still is not today. We can only fear that corrupt individuals will find new and novel ways to circumvent the system if current performance is anything to go by.

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