The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday in an abhorrent move postponed the Punjab elections, originally scheduled for April 30, till October 8.
According to the official press release of Electoral Watchdog, due to the no provision of Security troops from the Pakistan Army and Rangers, and no availability of essential funds from the Federal Government, the Commission was left with insufficient numbers of available Police personnel for the security of Election material, polling stations, the voters and the election candidates to carry forward the agenda of free, fair and transparent election in the province at the designated date and time. After in-depth discussions over the issues about the Punjab election, the commission was compelled to exercise its power under Article 218(3) read with Section 58 and Section 8(c) of the Elections Act, 2017, to withdraw the election program till October 8.
A highly deplorable and disgraceful decision of the Election Commission regarding the postponement of polls in the Country’s largest province has shocked the whole nation that is already distasteful and annoyed by the current state of affairs and the unethical politics of its leaders. There were rumors and multiple explanations had been put forth by the ruling coalition government regarding the deferment of the upcoming election in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa not only on mere security and financial reasons but on political grounds that created a perception that the ruling alliance was not sincere in holding elections on the designated date in both provinces. Meanwhile, the ECP decision regarding Punjab polls has also cast doubts regarding the upcoming election in KP as the conditions and strategies replicate in the adjoining provinces.
Realistically, Pakistan fell prey to an untamed bullfight between its leaders and political groups that not only engulfed the whole society but also debilitated state institutions, undermined the constitution, and derailed the political process throughout our national history. The selfish political culture has led the country to this day that nation lacks highly essential funds for the conduct of the electoral process, but the government was planning to boost its politics through public money by distributing free-of-cost wheat flour and cheaper petroleum products ahead of general polls in respective provinces. Historically, Pakistan is embattled with terrorism since the beginning of the 21st century and multiple national, provincial, and local bodies elections had been conducted despite heightened terrorism threats in the past such as in 2008, and 2013. Economic volatility is a persistent issue and delaying the election for another six months seems to have some political and mala fide motives for the regulator’s action.
After all, the Election Commission must not play a vanguard role for the incumbent government by suggesting a six months delay time for the election that is to be held constitutionally on an urgent basis with a specified time of 90 days. The Electoral Watchdog must shed off the role of an administrator/political broker by ordering the government and relevant institutions to provide essential funds and create a conducive environment for a peaceful and smooth holding of elections in respective regions as early as possible. Delaying an important constitutional activity on ill-motivates would serve to further political disagreement and social polarization in an already divided society.
There is a dire need that all national institutions including multiple ministries, the ECP, civil administration, and Police, as well as the Judiciary, to play their constitutional role in the best interest of the country without any persuasion from the sitting adamant rulers and aggressive opposition. At the same time, there is an urgent need for a political dialogue among all political groups to deliberate on political issues attached to future elections in the center and provinces to reach a consensus on electoral laws, procedures, and other methodologies. So, the nation comes out of the current fiasco and moves toward political stability and economic revival without any delay.