Election season merits responsible conduct from all stakeholders

Defence Minister and senior leader of the ruling PML-N, Khawaja Asif has said that assemblies will dissolve in August after the completion of their constitutional term. While addressing a worker’s convention in Sialkot, Khawaja Asif told the audience that the preparation for the elections has begun and the country was heading to a fresh poll. He claimed that the PDM-led government had the choice to dissolve assemblies immediately after taking office but it would have the worst effect on the economy and Pakistan could defaulted 14 months ago.

Pakistan endured an acute political haphazard and choas over the past more than one year after the PDM coalition moved a no-confidence motion against the former Prime Minister Imran Khan in early 2022. Whilst, the ouster of the PTI government kicked out an unceasing dogfight between the succeeding PDM-led coalition government and the PTI over the issue of an early election, which further worsened the situation, incited violence in politics, and prompted the dissolution of provincial assemblies in Punjab and the KP. The heightened political unrest slid the already fragile economy into a deep economic crisis. The nation witnessed severe economic challenges such as low foreign reserves, high cost of living, and persistent energy scarcity, which pushed a bed-sick economy to the brink of collapse but all that issues could not bring calm to the ongoing tussle between warring political groups. Historically, the past year’s political battle was primarily about the election controversy as the PTI and its allies demanded early elections while the PDM coalition had been pushing for the completion of the parliamentary term to announce all-out polls in the country including National and provincial assemblies in all federating units. Interestingly, doubts and confusion still exist regarding the holding of the general election amid assemblies have completed their term and are due for dissolution in the next month.

Defense Minister has announced good news, the nation hopes it would come true, however, various PML-N leaders are sending mixed signals regarding the next general elections and forecasting a delay due to the updation of the voters’ lists and fresh delimitation of electoral constituencies in accordance with the current census in the country, which disappoints the voters and blaze the political groups about the conduct of the ruling coalition government. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is the competent authority regarding the arrangement and the announcement of the election date is silent amid heightened debate in the political circles and media. Although the ECP’s role begins after the incumbent government dissolves the assemblies, unnecessary silence creates doubts and spoils goodwill among the contesting parties. It is high time that the ruling coalition government and the election commission must move forward to bring forth a comprehensive electoral plan before the nation which must include the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), online voting by overseas Pakistanis, and a consensus electoral strategy that essentially has support from all political parties in the country so no one point finger on the electoral process after losing the poll.

Realistically, the Pakistani nation has suffered the most from persistent political rivalry, whereas the May 9, events shattered the public belief in politics, which did not spare the memorials of the national heroes/ martyrs who laid their lives in service to the nation. The ruling coalition government, and contesting political groups must exercise patience and avoid pushing the nation into a fresh political or constitutional crisis by delaying or disrupting a normal electoral process. At the same time, the ECP must work proactively to ensure a free, fair, and transparent election while keeping in mind the prevailing political scenarios, hence timely completion of the delimitation process, completion of the voters’ list, and other procedural and administrative arrangements of utmost importance to avoid further setbacks and embarrassment. It is encouraging that an election environment has largely emerged in the country and a majority of the political parties have kicked off their election campaign which is like fresh air to the hopeless and desperate Pakistanis. Hopefully, the nation will move toward political stability and economic revival after a successful and transparent general election in the country.