Multiple extensions have been granted and deadlines have been missed, yet the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appears to have shelved the intra-party polls case against the PML-N. This is not only important for internal democracy purposes within parties but also a required exercise. Moreover, the lack of urgency when it comes to this case only further enables the narrative that the electoral watchdog is partial to certain parties.
As per reports, PML-N intra-party polls were due on March 22 last year, but the ECP extended the date on the party’s request and allowed it to hold polls latest by May 14, 2022, and submit the related certificate by May 21, 2022. This exercise is also a legal requirement to be eligible to obtain or retain a poll symbol, something that the party has failed to do even after the passage of over a year.
During the last hearing that was conducted on this matter, the PML-N counsel informed the commission that the intra-party polls could not take place due to the enormous engagements of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who was occupied with a number of responsibilities since becoming the prime minister. This excuse is illustrative of most mainstream political parties’ attitudes towards these democratic norms. Intra-party elections in most political parties in Pakistan are a mere formality and do not conform to the spirit of democracy. This is an obstacle to the development of political parties in general and for the induction of younger and more representative people in general. It is high time that parties introspect and improve their internal democracies with a special focus on the intra-party electoral system.
On the other hand, it is also the job of the ECP to vigilantly ensure that regulations are being followed. As the watchdog will take up for hearing seven cases against a certain political party this week, five of them pertaining to the use of “intemperate language and contemptuous remarks” against the ECP, it should also consider getting to neglected files that have been accumulating dust.